Set 11, 2015

Notes on “Between Walls” by William Carlos Williams

the back wings
of the

hospital where
nothing

will grow lie
cinders

in which shine
the broken

pieces of a green
bottle

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[ Poetry Foundation ]
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I think it matters, esp if we take into account at the level of attention WCW gives his words. My own way is to take each instance of the poem separately, like the same play on different nights. So while we can string them into a narrative (on the first reading this was how it was, on the second) we can also read each by itself.

Perhaps I won't be any help to your question because this is also what I do with readings. Now that you mentioned two (or three!) different ways of taking those words "Between Walls" as separate title (like "Song of Myself" or "Danse Russe") or title/first line (like the way we use "The Brain, within its Groove"), I'm now open to reading it in either arrangement.

Reading it as one complete sentence (with the title in place) there are (at least) two possibilities if we include commas and a period:

1) Between walls, the back wings of the hospital where nothing will grow, lie cinders in which shine the broken pieces of a green bottle.

2) Between walls, the back wings of the hospital, where nothing will grow, lie cinders in which shine the broken pieces of a green bottle.

Maybe there are other possibilities (esp if we introduce other punctuations). From here we can discuss (a) why is there something missing (preposition or punctuation)? or (b) why is there that feeling of something missing?

Maybe other questions. Just goes to show that YES, it matters (at least for me) so thanks!



If these words focus our vision, is the word walls still necessary? Aren't back wings sufficient? Maybe Williams dropped walls in to intensify the focus.




Thanks for sharing. My sister also works in a hospital. Among her tasks: delivering babies. Perhaps the most fun a doctor's allowed to have inside those wings. Even then, I imagine the anxieties attending her weekly "chore".





This said, I'd like to think the fact of brokenness luckily allows for (and lends special blessing to) the multiple ways of beginning the poem.