ABSTRACT

In “Animal Spirits” looks in some depth at several of Williams’s poems about dogs or cats written over the course of his career, from “Sub Terra” (1917); “Poem (As the cat)” (from the 1930s); the dogs of Paterson; and “To a Dog Injured in the Street,” which exemplifies the elegiac poetics and representational paradoxes of Williams’s late triadic style. Cats for Williams exemplify energy in precise control, its perfection in form—and that was his lifelong quest.  Dogs, on the other paw, embodied for Williams the boundary-breaking force of uncorraled creativity breaking form. Both spirits, figured as animals, were totems central to Williams’s understanding of the human creative act, and these twin aspects of Williams’s method have proven profoundly inspirational to later writers. This article concludes with a brief consideration of the final poem Williams wrote, “Stormy,” a tribute to the Williams’s dog; in many ways it sums up the goal of his life’s work.  The article ties that to A. R. Ammons’s poem “WCW,” also from the 1960s, which features an irrepressible dog as part of Ammons’s homage.

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