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Location: toronto, Canada

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Monday, April 04, 2005

The Dance

In Breughel's great picture, The Kermess,
the dancers go round, they go round and
around, the squeal and the blare and the
tweedle of bagpipes, a bugle and fiddles
tipping their bellies (round as the thick-
sided glasses whose wash they impound)
their hips and their bellies off balance
to turn them. Kicking and rolling about
the Fair Grounds, swinging their butts, those
shanks must be sound to bear up under such
rollicking measures, prance as they dance
in Breughel's great picture, The Kermess.


This poem by William Carlos Williams imitates and reads like a dance itself. The poem's structure or lack there of is continuous and fluid like a dance. There are no stanza's in the poem which resembles dance in that once the music starts the end only arrives once the music has stopped. There are only two periods in the poem one of which is at the end and the other just past the halfway mark perhaps resembling a rest in the vigorous music. However the prevalent form of punctuation in the poem, commas, are placed in almost every line throughout the poem making the read a constan swirl of words and sounds. The words used in the poem to describe the dance also adds to the characteristic of the poem itself feeling like a dance. In every line ther is either a word that describes music, instruments or a body parts action in relation to the music, or the sound created. Words like tipping, tweedle, kicking, and rolling are action words that create an energy in the audience by watching people dance.
Pieter Brueghel as per the footnote at the bottom of page 1169 was the "Flemish painter of peasant life; 'kermess': a fair or dance. William Carlos Williams captures the paintings essence beautifully as his words, lack of rhyme scheme, and lack of structure provide an effective image of joyous dancing. Still the most capturing part of the poem, personally, was the part about the floor boards. Williams imagines these over weight figures on planks of wood really enjoying their dance and music intensely and comes to the conclusion that the planks are not only well crafted but adds them into the dance by saying that they prance as the dancers dance. Everything is in unison - the dancers, the music, the bellies, and even the boards on which they are dancing on.
Although the poem seems to have no structure there is evidence of some order as the poem is in the shape of a square and every line's length is very close to the one before it and after it. Although in the confines of the poem the people dance and play almost wildly there is a line that connot be crossed perhaps referring that this festival ans dancing does not take place at any random day but only on traditional feasts or festivals. Brueghel was specifically known for his work depicting modest peasant life in villages or farms, and a kermess is known as a festival or dance held to benefit a church on the town's patron saint's day. It seems as though there is also an implied imperfect quality to the dance and music being performed. Words as squeal and blaring are usually not words used to describe music that is being played. "Bellies off balance" reinforces the notion that this is a peasant festival instead of a proper or formal kingly festival or traditional in which people are drinking and just having a good time.

4 Comments:

Blogger JScays said...

What I found rather "neat" about this poem was that it really seemed to have the ability to be read as a dance. It has an 'up and down' movement to it that creates a flowing nature that is really almost dance-like. I find it is so interesting that literature can have such a deep connection to the things of everyday life, like dancing. And when this poem is paralelled with the picture that is its subject, it seems easier to imagine the words on the page as being a true representation of the dance!

April 15, 2005 at 8:07 PM  
Blogger Sofie said...

I sensed that you are an analyst; so I was wondering if you could take a stab at this poem. I beg you to be gentle with it as it's author is a great friend of mine ...

Darkness and Life

I saw it,
The darkness that faded away,

I touched it,
It fled because it couldn't stay.

It shrouded me,
Overcome with power I became.

I absorbed it,
Darkness brought me my life.

It escaped,
All my hopes were lost.

I died.
It stole my soul.

April 5, 2006 at 8:08 PM  
Blogger Jasmin said...

can't shanks be also referred to the shanks of your hips which also have to be strong to withstand the jolly rollicking. no offense but this is what i think personally.

March 3, 2008 at 8:53 PM  
Blogger lynda said...

shank refers to the lower part of the leg- there is no definition of the word shank that refers to floorboards of any kind. besides, the people are outdoors.
also i'd like to comment that although the structure and rhyming scheme of this poem may be somewhat loose they are not absent by any stretch of the imagination.
i can see you posted this blog years ago so it's probably irrelevant to you, but just for anyone else reading who might be misled i thought i should remark on these errors.

March 28, 2008 at 7:32 AM  

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