William Carlos Williams

(17 September 1883 – 4 March 1963 / New Jersey)

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This is Just to Say


I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Imelda Ortega Suzara (5/30/2013 11:26:00 AM)

    I saw this in either a high school or college text book and it stuck in my head because of its simplicity and sincerity. It also shows that simple notes can become poems. (Report) Reply

  • Kevin Straw (9/17/2012 12:18:00 PM)

    Would from be better than that were in? The past tense in I have eaten implies the plums are no longer there.
    I quite like this poem. It has an ironic tone suggesting the kind of relationship Williams has with his wife(?) . It is a very 60s relationship in which the present pleasure overrides any moral sense. She will not leave him for the plums, but this incident bodes no good for the future if he carries this attitude into more serious concerns. (Report) Reply

  • Hatkas Jiermis (9/11/2012 11:51:00 AM)

    Written as though it were a note left on a kitchen table, Williams' poem appears to the reader like a piece of found poetry. Metrically, the poem exhibits no regularity of stress or of syllable count. Except for lines two and five (each an iamb) and lines eight and nine (each an amphibrach) , no two lines have the same metrical form. The consonance of the letters “Th” in lines two, three, and four, as well the consonance of the letter “F” in lines eight and nine, and the letter 'S' in lines eleven and twelve give rise to a natural rhythm when the poem is read aloud.
    A conspicuous lack of punctuation contributes to the poem’s tonal ambiguity. While the second stanza begins with a conjunction, implying a connection to the first stanza, the third stanza is separated from the first two by the capitalized “Forgive.” In a 1950 interview, John W. Gerber asked the poet what it is that makes This Is Just To Say a poem; Williams replied, In the first place, it's metrically absolutely regular... So, dogmatically speaking, it has to be a poem because it goes that way, don't you see! Critic Marjorie Perloff writes, on the page, the three little quatrains look alike; they have roughly the same physical shape. It is typography rather than any kind of phonemic recurrence that provides directions for the speaking voice (or for the eye that reads the lines silently) and that teases out the poem's meanings. Additionally, this typographical structure influences any subsequent interpretation on the part of the reader. (Report) Reply

  • Lamont Palmer (8/12/2010 10:31:00 AM)

    In reality, this isn't a poem but merely a couple of remarks. It never should've been seen (not to mention HAILED) as a poem. Its funny how WCW accused Eliot of taking poetry out of the hands of the 'people' through using dense language and obscure allusions. But I feel WCW did much more to ruin poetry's 'popularity' by ridding it of music and meter, by making it so plain as to be 'unmemorable.' At least Eliot kept the rhythms and the sense of meter. Williams changed the art of poetry completely - thus watering it down. -LP (Report) Reply

  • Karey Amon (4/19/2008 5:24:00 PM)

    I first saw this poem as a plaque on someones kitchen wall some 10 years ago.
    I thought then as now, this is so sweet...I would love someone who wrote it. (Report) Reply

  • Charley P (6/18/2007 1:58:00 PM)

    Well I think that it doesn't need to be prodded and examined by 'sucker, sheepheaded academics'... I quite like it just as a collection of words. It's sweet somehow. (Report) Reply

Read all 10 comments »

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