“Spring and All” sort of reminds me of Robert Frost’s poems, in that it describes nature in a very detail-rich way. The poem starts off in a pretty depressing way – “by the road to the contagious hospital” (1). I don’t like going to the hospital (I don’t think anyone does), so I would certainly not want to be anywhere near a “contagious hospital.” The bleak descriptions continue – there are “blue mottled clouds” “a cold wind” and “muddy fields brown with dried weeds” just in the first stanza. With these details, readers can easily imagine themselves outside on a cold, depressing, winter day. To make matters worse, you’re on the road to a contagious hospital. Looks like a pretty bad day. By the end of the poem, however, there appears to be some speck of hope amidst the dreary scenery: “the profound change has come upon them: rotten, they grip down and begin to awaken” (25-28). As the title suggests, this appears to be a description of the beginning of spring. Winter brings death, and spring brings rebirth. This rebirth does not give the poem a completely cheerful tone, however. Williams also describes the “stark dignity of entrance” (24). The hard sounds of those two words – stark dignity – suggest a sort of dreariness amidst the rebirth.
The poem “To Elsie” confused me. I wasn’t sure how the speaker felt about this Elsie figure (who apparently was a mentally handicapped nursemaid), or why the poem was addressed to her specifically. The speaker seems pretty critical of American ideals (“the pure products of America go crazy”), which is similar to e.e. cummings and Dos Passos.
“The Descent” is similar to the previous poem “Spring and All” in that it describes a new awakening after a period of despair. The formatting of the poem goes well with the title: it shows a descent down the page. The descent described in the poem seems to be a descent into the speaker’s mind and the unpleasant memories that live there. However, even among these bad memories, there is hope: “No defeat is made up entirely of defeat – since the world it opens is always a place formerly unsuspected” (14-16). This is a rather optimistic way of thinking.
“…beckons to new places and no whiteness (lost) is so white as the memory of whiteness” (20-22). This passage reminds me of Frost’s poem “Desert Places.” The repetition of the white imagery is used to elicit a feeling of emptiness and, to a certain extent, despair.