Read a poem, talk about it, read it again.

Episode 123 By the Road to the Contagious Hospital - William Carlos Williams


Connor and Jack discuss the newly resonant poem "By the road to the contagious hospital" by the great William Carlos Williams, which is the first poem in Williams' iconic Spring and All. They explore the now-emergent "pandemic in spring" sub-genre, which this poem is surely canon. They also talk about the poem's modernist context, its grounded attention to detail and nature, and its striking first line.

[By the road to the contagious hospital]
By: William Carlos Williams

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast-a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines—

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches—

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind—

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined—
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance—Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken
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