“Forcing twentieth-century America into a sonnet—gosh, how I hate sonnets—is like
putting a crab into a square box. You’ve got to cut his legs off to make him fit. When
you get through, you don’t have a crab any more.”
—William Carlos Williams
Dear Doctor Williams, with all due respect
For worlds of pleasure I’ve found in your verse,
On this account I feel I must defect.
I love your offhand lines— “so much for the hearse”
From “Tract” for one—and how you defied the norm,
Filled your poems with ordinary speech
And escaped the strictures of long-standing form
Extending by great lengths the poet’s reach.
But, gosh, the twentieth-century whole?
A crab so large should be delegged, declawed!
Who, dredging such a creature from the shoal,
Would not pull back in horror overawed?
A crab of such size must be cut to fit
Boiled, dipped in butter, eaten bit by bit.