The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Written in nonmetrical verse, “Queen-Ann’s-Lace” is a single-stanza, twenty-one line poem. Its title suggests it is about the common field flower also known as the wild carrot. A wide, white flower about a hand’s width in size, Queen Anne’s lace contains scores of tiny blossoms and, in the center, a dark spot. In I Wanted to Write a Poem (1958), William Carlos Williams said that he used “straight observationin [his] four poems about flowers, ‘Daisy,’ ‘Primrose,’‘Queen Ann’s Lace,’ and ‘Great Mullen.’” He “thought of them as still lifes. [and] looked at the actual flowers as they grew.” Indeed, the poem’s speaker might be observing a field of Queen Anne’s lace as the sun’s rays touch it.

The poem’s opening line, however, announces a much different subject: the whiteness of a woman’s body, which the speaker contrasts briefly in the first three lines with “anemone petals.” He finds “Her body is not so white,” “nor so smooth—nor/ so remote a thing.” Then, throughout the remainder of the poem, he compares her body’s whiteness with a commonplace “field/ of the wild carrot.” With this comparison, there is “no question” of too much “whiteness,” for at each flower’s center rests “a purple mole.”

Initially, the wildflower exerts its power, “taking/ the field by force,” not allowing the grass to “raise above it.” In the second half of the poem, however, the...

(The entire section is 411 words.)