This Is Just to Say

At first glance this poem seems rather innocent, as if the poet is writing the poem as an apology for eating the plums. The first two stanzas seem very direct and simple. “and which / you were probably / saving / for breakfast” sounds like something you might find in one of Robert Frost’s more light hearted poems. But the final stanza seems somehow different. First, with the capitalization of “Forgive me” standing out from the other two stanzas. This seems to make the reader pause from the flow of the rest of the poem, and focus on that line. Second, the contrast between “they were delicious / so sweet” and the final line “and so cold” seems to be a message that the poet is trying to convey. I read it as the callousness (or coldness) human nature has against sharing, but how the plum eater feels just the same of stealing—a bitter sweet moment of reward and regret.

How did you read it?

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4 Responses to This Is Just to Say

  1. bestrout says:

    I agree that there seems to be a certain amount of regret on the part of the person who ate the plums. I see it especially in the second stanza, “and which you were probably saving for breakfast.” That stanza seems like an afterthought, a realization hidden behind the action of eating the plums. For some reason it’s really quite hurtful to me. I tend to think about whoever was saving those plums for breakfast, they might have been excited about what they would make with them, or could have been planning something special, or just really looking forward to eating them, and now this person has stolen that away and taken them for him/herself (I read it as a man probably just because the writer is a man, but that’s not necessarily the case). Now when that other person does come to look for those plums they’ll be gone, and all because this narrator did not consider the effect his action was having on the other person (even the fact that “plums” is plural, meaning he could have at least saved one, but went ahead and ate them all). It’s only one small, minute, thing, but somehow it seems to hold more weight than what it first appears as–all those little actions ignoring the other person, all of those times he did not really stop and think, they could be adding up to create a rift between their connection. He writes, “Forgive me,” and it seems he just expects to be forgiven because it was such a little, insignificant action after all, but I’m not so sure.
    Then again, Williams was part of a movement that asked the reader to be a participant. This poem could just as easily be looked at with the other person assuring the narrator that it was perfectly fine to eat the plums and feeling bad that the narrator would think he was not free to eat them (perhaps like an interaction between a parent and a child). In the end, it was indeed the way this was set up as a poem that made me wonder about that second stanza (no capitals, coming in between the other two, nestled in the middle of the action of apologizing) and begin to apply my own meaning to it, and that I think is what Williams was making a point about: look at all of the different ways we interpret something when just the perception of the words are changed (from spoken or prose to a poem form for example).

  2. ldhare says:

    I think more generally, we should appreciate this poem for its ability to be read into by the reader. It is an approachable subject because it is believable and seems real. The reader can bring all their associations into it and the reconciliation of the poem and these preconceptions creates a new work almost. I think that Williams is attempting to provide a medium for readers to think and share in the creation, a sort of creative reading like we talked about in class. Also, as I said in class, I like to think that Williams was redefining poetry, that a reworked grocery list, a love letter, or a warning label can be poetry. I appreciate the focus on the mundane, the stuff of every day life. I love that it can elicit so many responses.

  3. amandalynn9 says:

    The fact that both of the characters arrive at the plums at two different times seems to create a fundamental disconnect between the two characters. The first time is when one character placed the plums there; the second is when the narrator took them. The narrator may never know why they were left there (as he can only guess, with “probably”), and it seems to suggest that the leaver may never know why they were taken, as neither does the reader by the final line of the poem.

  4. whatcher12 says:

    As many of you said, I believe that in this poem Williams is giving the reader the role of creatively reading in order to give his/her own meaning to the poem. It is a simple scene, with two characters and one conflict, and i think this simplicity is almost a critique of the method of a poem. How intricate, how meaningful must a poem be to express beauty? Is there beauty in this poem, or is it just a critique of human nature with regards to sharing?
    If i read really into I find a pattern of symbolism. What if the plum were a poem, the fridge were the traditions and patterns of translating and interpreting that poem, and the voice of the poem, who removes the plum and eats it’s sweetness, is the concept of a reader reading a poem. By reading the poem, we remove it from it’s traditions of interpretation and we experience, as the taste of a plum, our own feeling of the poem.

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