Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Desert Music” is a poem about imitating life through the creation of poetry. The speaker continually raises questions relating to the nature and significance of poetry. He responds to the questions in the form of an open dialogue and defines himself as a poet in an insistent and repetitive manner. The form of the poem serves as a challenge to the conventions of the Romantics and the Georgians, who Williams felt were restricted in their approach to poetry by their use of traditional patterns of organization. The poem also expresses a resistance to the use of elevated language and traditional subject matter. The poem is seen as an enduring object connected to the reality of human experience through the use of precise and rhythmic language.

“The Desert Music” is also a poem about a journey taken as a way of finding “relief from that changeless, endless/ inescapable and insistent music.” During the journey from California to Mexico, Williams appears to be searching for companionship and for experiences that will help him make connections with the people he meets. The photographic images he presents seem to reflect his interest in the particular, rather than the general, aspects of life. The cyclical nature (“Egg-shaped!”) of the journey isolates the events described in the poem within a specific time frame and presents the journey as being complete.

The common subject matter of the poem links the everyday experiences of the...

(The entire section is 409 words.)