WCW: Portrait of a Lady

This poem struck me as particularly ‘real’ in terms of depicting human emotion and train-of-thought. I loved that the subject matter he chose revolved around trying to articulate the sensuous grace of a woman. The third line where we see the first question seems to blend into the poem seamlessly, and not disrupt the slow and deliberate flow of the piece. I imagined that the poem had already made it safely into the hands of this lucky lady, and she were reading it as an intimate love letter somewhere in privacy.

However, by line 7 we see that there is yet another disruption, but this one deviates from the poem’s original line of thought, and is followed by an expression of the author’s anger. Now the poem reads differently, in my opinion. Instead of imagining that the poem is finished, and being read by the woman it attempts to describe, I imagine that the author is feverishly drafting and revising it somewhere private, perhaps in his study. In this scenario, I imagine the author pacing back and fourth, and verbally reading it allowd and talking to himself. The sound quality that this piece has is created primarily by the type of inner-dialogue included, in combination with the sound expressions and breaks with dashes that mimics speech patterns.

As a reader I found this really funny. By allowing his inner voice to enter the piece, the author transforms himself from a lofty gentleman, to a boy-man who isn’t confident that he can affect his love interest the way he wants to.

How did other people read this poem? Did you read it as finished in its final version, or still being drafted? Did you feel, as a reader, like you were seeing something too personal that wasn’t meant for the public?

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1 Response to WCW: Portrait of a Lady

  1. cjones13 says:

    I agree the the poem seemed very “real.” This is my favorite William Carlos Williams poem because of that. To me, it’s real because, like you, I can see a man trying to describe his affection for this woman, but not finding the words and getting frustrated.
    I feel like it is final, but I think I understand your reason behind thinking it is still being drafted. The showing of him being angry for not knowing the right words to say seems like it could still need drafting, but if you look at the idea of the poem as a whole, I think it is perfect. I think that William Carlos William is getting at is that there are times where you cant find the right words, and you stumble to express yourself, but that is real love. The ablilty to feel something,but being unable to express it is true emotions, and to me, that is what makes this poem so real.

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