Paying attention with poetry

March 21, 2013 by
Filed under: Social Brain 

It’s World Poetry Day.

As an English Literature undergraduate, I spent many a happy hour absorbed in the modernist poetry of William Carlos Williams. More or less a celebrity in his native USA, he’s relatively unknown here.

Image via blogs.suntimes.com

His poems often convey a certain haecceitasthe quality of ‘thisness’ – capturing something very particular. In the Social Brain Centre, we’re interested in the importance of attention, and one of the possibilities offered by Carlos Williams’ poetry is to focus attention very acutely. In a way, I think his poems illustrate mindfulness in action. It’s especially clear in these two of his most famous poems:

The Red Wheel Barrow

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in

the icebox
and which
you were probably

saving
for breakfast
Forgive me

they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

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