It is not surprising that Paterson has turned out to be interminable. Its progress, since the appearance of Book 1 in 1946, has been more and more in the direction of what Randall Jarrell has called “the organization of irrelevance”; it has grown progressively more arbitrary and self-indulgent in its pursuit of “a particular history”. The effort of Paterson is to unfold an individual sensibility in terms of its environment, local, historical and cultural; to discover a man in his city. “I searched for a city”, Williams wrote, “one that I knew. It couldn’t be New York, not anything as big as a metropolis”, and perhaps the first limitation of the poem is that its locale is selected not because it offers an urban complex which is representative of modern America but rather because Williams felt it to have an “important colonial history”; it invited further excavations in the American grain.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
… Then and Now, 1964 | TLS.