May 11, 2011
the university, a bud forever green
This is the beginning of Section II of William Carlos Williams' long poem Paterson (1946), which is a kind of portrait of the author's home city in New Jersey.
Robert Lowell confidently says that the "bud forever green / tight-curled, upon the pavement, perfect / in juice and substance but divorced, divorced / from its fellows" is the university, scholarship, or science, divorced from the city and its democratic life. I cannot vouch for that allegorical reading (bud=university), but the poem is surely about some kind of "divorce" between abstract thought and human needs. We know how things are going--badly enough to howl--but not why. Intelligence does not shape the flow; we watch coldly from afar.
These are challenging words for us who enjoy being inside that tight-curled bud.
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