It Is a Living Coral

By William Carlos Williams 1883–1963
a trouble

archaically fettered
to produce

E Pluribus Unum an
island

in the sea a Capitol
surmounted

by Armed Liberty—
painting

sculpture straddled by
a dome

eight million pounds
in weight

iron plates constructed
to expand

and contract with
variations

of temperature
the folding

and unfolding of a lily.
And Congress

authorized and the
Commission

was entrusted was
entrusted!

a sculptured group
Mars

in Roman mail placing
a wreath

of laurel on the brow
of Washington

Commerce Minerva
Thomas

Jefferson John Hancock
at

the table Mrs. Motte
presenting

Indian burning arrows
to Generals

Marion and Lee to fire
her mansion

and dislodge the British—
this scaleless

jumble is superb

and accurate in its
expression

of the thing they
would destroy—

Baptism of Poca-
hontas

with a little card
hanging

under it to tell
the persons

in the picture.

It climbs

it runs, it is Geo.
Shoup

of Idaho it wears
a beard

it fetches naked
Indian

women from a river
Trumbull

Varnum Henderson
Frances

Willard’s corset is
absurd—

Banks White Columbus
stretched

in bed men felling trees

The Hon. Michael
C. Kerr

onetime Speaker of
the House

of Representatives
Perry

in a rowboat on Lake
Erie

changing ships the
dead

among the wreckage
sickly green

William Carlos Williams, “It Is a Living Coral” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1991 by William Carlos Williams. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Selected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1991)

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Poet William Carlos Williams 1883–1963

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Imagist

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Painting & Sculpture, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Popular Culture

Poetic Terms Ekphrasis

 William Carlos Williams

Biography

William Carlos Williams has always been known as an experimenter, an innovator, a revolutionary figure in American poetry. Yet in comparison to artists of his own time who sought a new environment for creativity as expatriates in Europe, Williams lived a remarkably conventional life. A doctor for more than forty years serving the New Jersey town of Rutherford, he relied on his patients, the America around him, and his own . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Painting & Sculpture, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Popular Culture

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Imagist

Poetic Terms Ekphrasis

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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