William Carlos Williams – the poet behind the plums in the icebox meme
It’s been fun to watch the numerous Twitter memes riffing on the “This Is Just To Say” poem about plums in the icebox written by William Carlos Williams in 1934.
The original poem, a true example of modernist poetry, goes:
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
The meme sees people applying the style of zero punctuation and sharp, short wording to numerous pop songs such as Mambo #5, Ice Ice Baby, and Call Me Maybe. It’s one of Twitter’s more cerebral memes of recent times but it’s wonderful to see poetry alive and vibrant… even when there’s a Vanilla Ice connection.
a little bit of cold plums in my life
a little bit of icebox by my side
a little bit of breakfast is what you need
a little bit of forgiveness, what I seek
a little bit of delicious, thats those plums
a little bit of sweet plums all night long
a little bit of cold plums here I am
— thom (@thwphipps) November 28, 2017
HEY i just met you
and this is CRAzy
but the plums in the icebox
i ate them maybe
— Your Trusted Wizard (@Choplogik) November 28, 2017
Yo, forgive me, let’s kick it!
Ice box baby
Ice box baby
All right stop
Collaborate I have eaten
All the plums that had been in the ice box
They were so cold, sweet, and delicious
You were probably saving them for breakfast
— Jenny Jaffe (@jennyjaffe) November 28, 2017
Williams was an influential poet in his day and even contributed the introduction to Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. This Is Just To Say is taught in American high schools but today almost no-one buys books of William Carlos Williams’ poetry. AbeBooks has only sold seven copies of his books in 2017 and we usually do very well with poetry since regular bookstores rarely carry large selections.
Williams (1883–1963) paid the bills by working as a physician. He was chief of pediatrics for Passaic General Hospital in New Jersey from 1924 until his death. In his spare time, he wrote short stories, plays, novels, and essays. His modernist style of poetry was not always well received although he was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems in 1963.
In 1920, he published a book of experimental prose and poetry called Kora in Hell: Improvisations., which was dubbed “incoherent” by American expatriate poet Ezra Pound. His 1923 collection, Spring and All, was overshadowed by TS Eliot’s Waste Land, which was universally acclaimed. He published an autobiography in 1951 and copies are easy to find.