My article links William Carlos Williams’s poetics to Marcel Duchamp’s conceptualism—the democratic idea that anything, even a factory-produced urinal, once framed as such, may be considered by viewers as art. I focus on Williams’s improvisational writing, Kora in Hell and read the author’s ambivalent relation to art as an expression of (auto)eroticism. I also deal with the role of abstraction in Williams’s poetics, and my interrogations read such a challengingly de-centered text as a reflection of the poet’s conflicted personality, focusing on Williams’s celebration of the body and especially the female form as source of pleasure, his guilt over his infidelities in his marriage, and his ambivalent views of sex as corruption and reproduction. I argue that both Duchamp and Williams engage in a fixation on the work of artistic reproduction as an onanisitic process, though I contend that Williams does so less consciously than Duchamp. Duchamp’s anti-retinal art and Williams’s American idiom, and later his variable foot, were new ways of looking to defamiliarize and reorient the logic of art production and the definition of the artist himself. However, unlike Duchamp, who found himself relatively removed from the animal desires he coded and enacted in his Roto-sculptures, Williams was consistently entangled in issues Duchamp may have dismissed as both too animal and too moral to concern truly radical art.

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