Blaser, Robin, ed. The Collected Books of Jack Spicer. Santa
Barbara, Calif.: Black Sparrow, 1980. Ellingham, Lewis, and Kevin Killian. Poet Be like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance. Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press, 1998. Finkelstein, Norman M. "Jack Spicer's Ghosts and the Gnosis of History." Boundary IX.2 (winter 1981): 81-100. Foster, Edward. Jack Spicer. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University, 1991.
SPRING AND ALL WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS (1923) First published in the periodical the Dial (see poetry journals) William Carlos Williams s Spring and All is a representative modernist text (see modernism). It can be read along with T. S. eliot's poem the waste land (which appeared in the Dial in 1922) as an example of the experimental approach to literature between the wars. But to read Spring and All as simply a counterpoint to The Waste Land is to miss the radically distinctive presence of Williams in the tradition of modernism. Eliot's formal method of allusion and quotation to and from other texts—Williams described Eliot and Ezra pound as "men content with the connotations of their masters" (Selected 21)—stands in sharp contrast to Williams's embrace of the dynamic innovations of the avant-garde.
As Williams explains, Spring and All "was written when all the world was going crazy about typographical form and is really a travesty on the idea" (Imaginations 86). An improvisational sequence of 27 untitled poems and associated prose fragments, Spring and All is a vital example of Williams's early experiments with form. The text of Spring and All is distinctive for other reasons as well: It incorporates the methods of collage and juxtaposition in the visual arts of the period; it transgresses boundaries among genres, raising fundamental questions regarding the distinction between poetry and prose; it is a parody of
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nationalistic postwar rhetoric in the United States; and it is a modernist manifesto on the social and cultural value of art.
The text of Spring and All introduced the poems that would become Williams's most well known—including "Spring and All," "To Elsie," and "The Red Wheelbarrow." The poems reflect his abiding commitment to the local conditions and people of his time and place. The poem later entitled "Spring and All" registers the mind apprehending to transitions in nature—"Now the grass, tomorrow / the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf— and the poem known as "The Right of Way" gathers the meaningful but transient particulars of our day-to-day lives—"an elderly man who / smiled and looked away."
Spring and All is not least a breathtaking commentary on the necessary and continuing activity of imaginative labor. As Williams explains, "The imagination goes from one thing to another" (Selected 11); therefore the reader must remain attentive to the text's movement from one thing to another. Not unlike Walt Whitman, Williams insists upon the reader's active role in the production of meaning. The experience of reading Spring and All is challenging for precisely this reason. As Williams insists in the prose of Spring and All, "There is no confusion—only difficulties." In other words, the confusion one may experience reading Spring and All in no way implies a confusing text; on the contrary, it is a condition naming the experience of a reader, face-to-face with the generative state in which the imagination becomes aware of itself.
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