Thoughts on Between Walls by William Carlos Williams

One of my favorite poems is “Between Walls” by one of New Jersey’s most famous residents, William Carlos Williams. The Rutherford-born poet changed the face of poetry by making it more conversational. In doing that, he  gave more importance to the things and conversations that filled people’s everyday lives.

Between Walls

the back wings
of the

hospital where

will grow lie

In which shine
the broken

pieces of a green

It's a simple poem. All we have are two walls – two out of sight walls – that most people will never see. The purpose of the walls in the poem is just to shelter the pieces of a broken bottle.

These broken pieces are what shine in the poem, what is supposed to draw our attention, not the hospital, not its structure, but a bottle, not even a whole, functional bottle, but what’s left after its been spent and carelessly tossed.

But, really, we don’t even know why it’s been broken. It could have been broken in anger, frustration or klutziness.

At its start, the poem is already in motion. How we came to this situation is not the point. Besides the beginning, the end is also not important. We have no clue what’s going to happen next.

Sounds like life as we know it, doesn’t it?  Things can break down or things can improve. They can be seen or go unnoticed. Not even a hospital, where the best of our knowledge is used for miraculous results, can change that. Walls contain the events of our lives, but that is all they will do.

To make any more sense out of it, or to get more out of life, we need to frame our own moments. We need to break the momentum and sit and think. And that is what poetry is for.

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