Uploaded by Yasmine Mohamed Fathy


This is just to say
This is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams is a unique modern poem which shows that poetry
can be about anything and everything. Moreover, it shows how really poetic simple and ordinary
experiences can be. The poem takes as its subject a very ordinary event of daily and family life:
the speaker confesses to his mother, or may be his wife, that he couldn’t help eating plums kept
in the kitchen.
He means to confess the guilt and apologize for it. The poem can also be interpreted
symbolically. Its simplicity, economy and its unique form must also be commented upon. Its
imagery is also another striking feature. The whole poem is written in just twenty-eight words
and in two sentences without punctuation; the capital letter in the beginning last stanza
indicates a sentence break. The title can also be taken as the first line. So the whole poem can
be summarized as: This is just to say that I’ve eaten the plums and I want to apologize, but I
couldn’t help eating them because they were so cold and delicious.
Because of the extreme economy and care in wording, the reader is encouraged to give equal
care and thought to each word. The line ends mark usual pause and unusual reflection
(meditation). The tone is of a hesitant child confessing his mistake. The paradox in the
justification is very typically childlike and interesting: the speaker says that he ate plums
“because” they were cool and delicious. How did he know that? The lie and the honesty are so
striking. He ate them first and then only found them delicious: he was overcome by temptation.
He realizes the mistake only when he had done it. That is inevitable.
The paradox in the confession has deeper meanings. We know what's right, good, moral or truth
only when we try and face the wrong, evil, immoral or false. We say we won’t do worse, and we
confess when we have done it. We can’t undo anything. This is an inescapable reality of the
human condition. All knowledge is gained or advance on this principle of paradox. The event in
the poem can be compared with Adam and Eve’s case. They ate the apple and realized things
like shame, disease, anger, guile, death, and so on. The experience of the evil only confirmed
their knowledge of the good (or the right) and the value of the bliss that God had given them.
They realized the value of “Eden” only when they had lost it. We realize the value of ignorance,
any possession, happiness, and anything that we have only after we lose it. The knowledge of
the dark, guilt and shame gives value or meaning to the bright side of life. Opposites define and
validate opposites.
At the symbolic level, therefore, the child represents human beings who are like Adam in the
mistakes they go on making and the knowledge they go on achieving. So the addressee (you) of
the poem must be Christ or God. The familiarity of the subject matter and imagery tells us that
we repeat mistakes of the same kind even in ordinary life and conditions.
The imaginary is very concrete, vivid and sensuous. The ‘cold’ plums in the ‘icebox’ and their
‘delicious’ sweetness brings water in our mouths! The fidelity of thought is also striking: they
were probably saved for breakfast. This is an irrelevant idea to cover up the wrong, and to be
“intelligent”. But it doesn’t help anyway.
The poem is at first starting in its economy: Even the title has to be a part of it. “This” may mean
a ‘note’ left on the table, or it may also confess his guilt for everyone through ‘this’ poem.
Besides the economy, the familiar setting and the dramatic situation clarified by a few words is
also notable. The poem is amazingly simple in diction. Only the thought-provoking truth makes it
short of being a child’s poem.
The Imagists wrote succinct verse of dry clarity and hard outline in which an exact visual image
made a total poetic statement. Imagism was a successor to the French Symbolist movement,
but, whereas Symbolism had an affinity with music, Imagism sought analogy with sculpture. To
use the language of common speech, but to employ the exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor
the merely decorative word.
1. To use the language of common speech, but to employ the exact word, not the nearlyexact, nor the merely decorative word.
2. We believe that the individuality of a poet may often be better expressed in free verse
than in conventional forms. In poetry, a new cadence means a new idea.
3. Absolute freedom in the choice of subject.
4. To present an image. We are not a school of painters, but we believe that poetry should
render particulars exactly and not deal in vague generalities, however magnificent and
sonorous. It is for this reason that we oppose the cosmic poet, who seems to us to shirk
the real difficulties of his art.
5. To produce a poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite.
6. Finally, most of us believe that concentration is of the very essence of poetry.