Category: Williams, William Carlos

essay canon dispatch no. 7 — “An Essay on Virginia” by William Carlos Williams (20’s)

image found here
image found here

[CN: Racism, slavery]

Essays. Fuck ’em, right?

Those insipid puff pieces on banal middle class+ experience, with their naturalist language which reinforce family values and conformity while sapping true imagination. Their cozy and apolitical maundering express the unsolicited thoughts of complacent lily white suburban yups with their delusions of safety and national community. The consensus of the Post WWI culture, when Europe was in shambles yet still spread its toxic old world influence on the US like influenza, seems to be that the essay was so humdrum that it hardly deserved any serious attention, let alone a truly Modernist intervention like what was happening with painting, music, poetry, and the novel (Virginia Woolf’s nonfiction is an exception).

But the CNF essay canon is a ‘murican canon by god, and the selection for the 1920’s is appropriately an avant-garde trip by the USen Modern champion WCW, promising to liberate the essay from its bourgeois prison, re-theorize it, and present in its endless refractions and surfaces some sense of Amerikkka, where it is, where it came from, where it is going. For some reason i had a hard time finding “Essay on Virginia,” which was collected in an album of short prose published through Ezra Pound. And then, almost by accident, i stumbled on a collection called IMAGINATIONS in the library, which was like an album of albums from the 20’s. It holds some wild stuff in case, like me, you thought all WCW did were minimalist poems about red wheelbarrows and stories about a doctor.