Queen-Anne's-Lace by William Carlos Williams: Summary and Analysis

Queen-Anne's-Lace by William Carlos William is unconventional in its theme and subverts the traditional idea of 'female as flower' in the poem. The title comes from the name of a flower that grows in open grassy fields, and being white, which is identified with the image of female like vulnerable, tender, fragile, beautiful, and transient flower.

William C. Williams (1883-1963)

But the poet refuses to identify the female with flower and replaces it with the image of 'field'; the woman is more like a field, creative or fertile and sustaining life. Another thing the poet does in this poem is frankly (though not explicitly) confesses his male desires related to the female body. The poem also rejects the traditional idea of virginity, whiteness and piety. "Here is no question of whiteness... a pious wish to whiteness gone over — or nothing". The poet claims that the female body is not white like the white flower, but is more like "a field/ of the wild carrot taking the field by force". This image of a carrot is potentially sexual; and this is reinforced by the 'white desire' that the field evokes in the speaker. Poetry is a reign of the desires, including that of the sun-poet. The restraints are gone, or they must go. The Dionysian revelry with the field and female is not to be denied, for there is nothing more natural than this ‘desire'. What is artificial is the ideas imposed on the nature of things by our cultures.

Queen-Anne's-Lace is a poem that refutes traditional metaphor of floral imagery to female attributes. Poets have so often tended to link women with flowers that it has become a cultural commonplace; in fact, the association has become automatic. But Williams forestalls that automatic culture reflex. He begins with a negative "Her body is not so white”. He then removes the woman's body from decorative images of flowers and asks us to think in terms of a field. Later, he moves to the larger metaphor: the field plus the flowers in the field. The poem is a refusal to accept the aristocratic and old conservative reserve and high mindedness. While evoking the old poet, the new poet has also tried to displace the old ideas as fixed. Here again we come to the idea of the poet's perpetual struggle to overcome the Oedipal complex due to the impacts of the old poets. Here the poet has partly violated the norm, but we can see, whether it is intended or not, that he has come squarely round to the same idea of poetry as a vehicle of expressing desire. Here, where there is desire, love, warmth and fertility, whiteness does not reign supreme, "white desire" collapses into the "nothing".

At the end of the poem when the imaginative ecstatic union of the male sun-poet with the female field of flowers has reached its orgasmic height, the poet is thrown back on himself, on his own separate consciousness. This consciousness is both the anxiety of influence and the attempt to belong to the community of the archetypal sun-poet.

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Shrestha, Roma. "Queen-Anne's-Lace by William Carlos Williams: Summary and Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 4 Apr. 2018, bachelorandmaster.com/britishandamericanpoetry/queen-annes-lace.html.

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