National Poetry Month: Which Shore?

National Poetry Month is, alas, drawing to a close, but this doesn’t mean that you should put your poetry books back on the shelf to accrue dust for another year! Poetry’s charms are a year-round pleasure, and to prove it, I’ll end the month by sharing another favorite poem of mine to herald the warm breezy weather of late Spring.

“Portrait of a Lady” is one of William Carlos Williams’ oft-anthologized poems because (seems to me) it demonstrates his experimental, modernist sensibility combined with humor, beauty, and a nice dose of eroticism. Like Yeats’ poem from earlier in the month, “Portrait of a Lady” also becomes a poem about writing – it pokes a little fun at the hyperbole of pastoral love poetry, and demonstrates the internal argument a writer must survive as he/she attempts to put the ineffable into words.

— Sarah Rose Nordgren, Publicity Assistant

Portrait of a Lady

Your thighs are appletrees
whose blossoms touch the sky.
Which sky? The sky
where Watteau hung a lady’s
slipper. Your knees
are a southern breeze – or
a gust of snow. Agh! what
sort of man was Fragonard?
– As if that answered
anything. – Ah, yes. Below
the knees, since the tune
drops that way, it is
one of those white summer days,
the tall grass of your ankles
flickers upon the shore  –
Which shore? –
the sand clings to my lips  –
Which shore?
Agh, petals maybe. How
should I know?
Which shore? Which shore?
– the petals from some hidden
appletree – Which shore?
I said petals from an appletree.

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