Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 525
“The Wind Increases” is a short lyric poem in free verse composed of twenty-eight lines. All the lines of the poem are arranged in such a way as to suggest the motion of wind. In this sense, the poem could be said to be a shaped verse, a type of poem in which the typographical shape of the words on the page represents some part of the subject. Because the overall structural pattern of the poem is so loosely arranged, the poem has no set stanzaic form. In fact, Thomas R. Whitaker, in William Carlos Williams (1968), states that the way that the lines are organized encourages the reader to “not think of line-ends”; rather, the set of lines as a whole “dissolve and reconstitute the poetic line as they seek immediacy.” Based upon its content, however, the poem can be divided into five parts. In the first seven lines, the poet describes an approaching storm and tells about the “harried earth,” the trees, and “the tulip’s bright/ tips” being tossed around by the increasing wind. The second part of the poem changes abruptly from this rather literal description of the coming storm to an admonition to the reader: “Loose your love/ to flow.” This sudden shift is made all the more emphatic because it and the third part of the poem are in the form of a command. Moreover, this third part is composed of only the single verb “Blow!” At this point, the reader may believe that the poet is referring to the blowing of the wind, that he is perhaps commanding the stormy wind to blow. Undoubtedly, this is one meaning of the line, but the line also suggests that people, after “loosening their love,” should allow their love to “blow” or be distributed more freely to their fellow human beings as well as to the world of nature.
The fourth and fifth parts of the poem also seem to involve an unexpected change because they are not directly concerned with describing a storm or with love. Instead, the fourth part asks a question: “Good Christ what is/ a poet—if any/ exists?” The rest of the poem is devoted to answering this question. The reader may also wonder at the quick shift in tone, for the phrases “Good Christ” and “if any exists” imply that the poet himself is both exasperated and frustrated with the difficulty of responding to his own query. There is even a hint of skepticism about whether or not poetry and poets can be developed and created. This irritation and doubt following the poet’s comments about the storm and love are surprising. However, after readers finish reading the poem, they see how and why all of these parts fit together to convey the messages that a poet must produce living, moving, fresh ideas just as nature produces new growth each year and that in order to be original and creative, a poet must “loose” his love “to flow.” That is, a poet must be full of love—for his craft, for his fellow humans, and for the world of nature—in order to create great art.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 488
References to nature abound in “The Wind Increases.” The word “wind” is even in the title of the poem. The picture that the poet paints of the increasing wind as well as the other images of nature found in the first seven lines serve to describe literally, albeit somewhat dramatically, the beginning of a storm. In fact, after reading such vivid descriptions of the wind and storm, the reader may wonder about the use of the verb “increases” in the title. Such a word, which is usually used in a precise, mathematical sense, lacks the immediacy and the power of phrases such as “harried earth” and “tulip’s bright tips.” However, Williams’s choice to use the verb “increases” in his title is actually consistent with his style and form. He believed in experimentation in poetry and was not bound by the conventional rules of style or content. Thus, for him to use a word that often has a mathematical connotation in a poem about nature and the philosophy of poetry is not unusual.
Williams does not refer to nature in the middle section (lines 8-13); rather, it is here that he most openly reveals his overriding concern in the poem. He wants to address the same issue that many other poets have contemplated: What is poetry? In order to explore this topic, the poet uses a question-and-answer format. In lines 11-13, he asks what a poet is and then immediately starts to supply an answer. The first part of the answer (lines 14-17) makes no references to nature. Instead, a poet is described as “a man/ whose words will/ bite/ their way/ home.” That is, a poet must seek depth of experience, symbolized by the word “home,” for people’s homes are usually thought of as places where they can expose their “depths.” In the last part of the middle section (lines 17-19), the poet emphasizes that the words must be “actual” and yet have “the form/ of motion,” that the language of the poet must be abstract yet concrete and vivid.
In the last eight lines, the poet again returns to the use of nature imagery in order to answer his question about the nature of poetry. In these final lines, the poet’s essential message concerns his belief that poets must produce their own answers to the age-old questions that have perplexed and “tortured” humans throughout time. However, in order to illustrate this concept, the poet creates a metaphor about a tree: A poet must add new words to each “twigtip” and yet use words that, like the roots of a tree, “grip the ground.” These words must also extend all the way “to the last leaftip.” That is, a poet should use words that describe even the outermost reaches of thought and feeling just as a tree must extend nourishment to all of its parts, including its most remote leaves on its highest branches.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 194
Axelrod, Steven Gould, and Helen Deese, eds. Critical Essays on William Carlos Williams. New York: G. K. Hall, 1995.
Beck, John. Writing the Radical Center: William Carlos Williams, John Dewey, and American Cultural Politics. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001.
Bremen, Brian A. William Carlos Williams and the Diagnostics of Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Copestake, Ian D., ed. Rigor of Beauty: Essays in Commemoration of William Carlos Williams. New York: Peter Lang, 2004.
Fisher-Wirth, Ann W. William Carlos Williams and Autobiography: The Woods of His Own Nature. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1989.
Gish, Robert. William Carlos Williams: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1989.
Laughlin, James. Remembering William Carlos Williams. New York: New Directions, 1995.
Lenhart, Gary, ed. The Teachers and Writers Guide to William Carlos Williams. New York: Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 1998.
Lowney, John. The American Avant-Garde Tradition: William Carlos Williams, Postmodern Poetry, and the Politics of Cultural Memory. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1997.
Mariani, Paul. William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked. 1981. Reprint. New York: W. W. Norton, 1990.
Vendler, Helen, ed. Voices and Visions: The Poet in America. New York: Random House, 1987.
Whitaker, Thomas R. William Carlos Williams. Boston: Twayne, 1989.