William Carlos Williams on Nothingness

Book 2, part 3 begins with this short poem:

Look for the nul
defeats it all

the N of all

that rock, the blank
that holds them up

which pulled away -
the rock's

their fall. Look
for that nul

that's past all

the death of all
that's past

all being.

Try reading it this way:

Look / for that nul / that's past all / seeing
The death of all / that's past / all being

The "nul" (Null = nothingness) is the "Blank that holds them up" The null "which pulled away (causes) the rock's their fall" The Null underlies and holds up everything. Nothingness is the foundation of being. The fact that there is anything is dependent on the fact that there could be nothing.

Look for it!


The Structure of Paterson (so far)

I'm just starting to get into Paterson now, but I'm picking up on the pattern. Williams is braiding 3 or 4 separate story lines together so that they all interrupt each other. We have a straightforward historical narrative, items from local newspapers, a meandering free verse poem that follows his walking around town, and mixed up scraps of correspondence.

The river and the falls feature prominently in the book with lots of references to water:

with the roar of the river / forever in our ears ...
challenging our waking

the pouring waters of their hair ...
the gathered spray


Paterson: An Introduction

William Carlos Williams was born in Rutherford (Northeast NJ, across the river from New York City.) Rutherford itself is just south of Paterson, which is NJs 3rd largest city, behind Newark and Jersey City. Williams epic poem "Paterson" is a monument to, and personification of, the city.

Paterson is a hilly, industrial town whose borders are partially defined by the Passaic River.

Paterson, within Passaic County, within New Jersey

The Great Falls of the Passaic River

Paterson, defined by the Passaic