You asked about what my research was on Williams & it’s pretty straightforward. The first chapter is about Kora in Hell: Improvisations. Williams got the idea for the Improvisations from Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art and I try to show the effect that book had on Kora, as a nightly experiment. I then trace the effect of his experimentation (in Kora) on the work afterwards, like in Sour Grapes. My argument builds from the fact that the experimentation showed Williams differing ways to organize a poem and ways to incorporate disparate ideas and perspectives. I do close readings of Kora and of the poems that follow, for instance the sequence of flower studies he wrote in 1919, and establish a sequence of experimental texts, to show the evolution.
But my research expands from that one idea. For instance, I’ve done a lot of reading on Kandinsky and what he was influenced by, who was looking at Kandinsky’s work, who was reading the book, which translation & all that. Williams was reading Pound closely, who also read Kandinsky, but the person especially important in the transmission seems to be Marsden Hartley. He actually visited Kandinsky & was very impressed by the book. Shortly thereafter he met Pound in London in 1914, just as Pound’s group was getting interested in Kandinsky. That was when the first English translation appeared. Well, not quite. Hartley (in Paris) was friends with Stieglitz and told Stieglitz about Kandinsky. Stieglitz (in New York) bought a copy of the book and translated a passage for Camera Work. Hartley was also close friends Charles Demuth & Alfred Kreymborg & probably thru them became friends with Williams around 1914-5, tho no one knows quite when. & on & on it goes. I’ve read of course all their biographies & many others & their published letters etc. to flesh out the sequences. I’m always looking for clues. I get very picky about what Williams said or wrote when, because the sequence important.
My real concern however is the way Williams’ work changes over time, from Kora through 1932, but even on to his theories of poetic form & the variable foot. I’m tracing & connecting those changes, mostly in his compositional practices, how he composed poems, how the perspectives shift, how the speaker positions himself, what kinds of things are allowed into the poem. One of the crucial moments in that change occurs with if not in The Great American Novel in 1921. I establish that Kora for instance was written in 1917. The poems in Sour Grapes were written mostly from 1918 to 1920. One of my arguments is that the stylistic leap between Sour Grapes and Spring and All (written in 1922) is to be explained by the experiments in The Great American Novel. That book has been somewhat ignored.
And then there are the magazines, for Williams and his friends were all big followers of the little magazines, so I’ve been reading through those as I locate them online trying to correlate what occurs there to what occurs in Williams’ writing. For instance, Joyce’s Ulysses was being serialized in the Little Review from 1918 to 1920. As you may gather, the research gets totally absorbing, and I’ve got books stacked up everywhere. I’d be glad to share a chapter with you sometime, but they tend to be longish. The chapter on Kora was published in Sagetrieb about ten years ago.
More than you asked for, I know!
Bruce Holsapple, Magdelena, New Mexico. this email used with Bruce’s permission. for information about him go here: http://localpoetsguild.wordpress.com/abq-poets/bruce-holsapple/