Essay on "A Negro Woman" by W.C.Williams

American Literature Commentary on "A Negro Woman" by W. CArlos Williams

The word “poetry” comes from the Greek verb “poein” which means “to create, to make”. It is an art of language that is aimed at expressing an idea in melodious words by playing with rhythms and musicality[1]. This text is a poem entitled “A Negro Woman” written by William Carlos Williams in 1955 and published in Pictures from Brueghel and other Poems in 1962. It is anchored in the very beginning of the African-American Civil Rights Movement which occurred between 1955 and 1968 in the United States. In this poem, Williams describes a quite common black woman of the time carrying yellow flowers from one place to another in the “early morning”. “A Negro Woman” is written in free verse as Williams tried to focus more particularly on concrete things, the rhythm and the clarity of the everyday life speech rather than on concepts, feelings and refined words. He summarized his poetic method as “no ideas but in things” and was in favor of the use of a local and plain American language. We can remark that the poem is divided into two distinct parts : one in which the poet describes a common scene of a black woman walking down the street and the other one in which he reveals the whole symbolism of this scene. We will try and explain in what sense Williams conveys the idea of a brand-new day for African-Americans through the simple description of a black woman carrying flowers. In order to do so we will first see how he portrays this woman and what tools he uses to make her a representative for all other black women and then we will see that he actually achieves to make a symbol out of her by using elements from her portrayal and thus revealing things that common men couldn't see without the help of the poet.

What strikes us when we read the poem for the first time is the fact that it is a poem written in free verse. There are no rhymes, no standard stanzas, no traditional rhythm pattern. Instead,...