Flowers by the sea

When over the flowery, sharp pasture’s
edge, unseen, the salt ocean

lifts its form—chicory and daisies
tied, released, seem hardly flowers alone

but color and the movement—or the shape
perhaps—of restlessness, whereas

the sea is circled and sways
peacefully upon its plantlike stem

~ “Flowers by the Sea,” William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

Perhaps it was because William Carlos Williams was both a physician and a poet that attracted him to a style of verse that emphasized careful attention to precise words in order to create images of clear visual detail. Yet, as a poet, Williams was also an experimenter. “Flowers by the Sea” is an example of his exploration of flexible rhythms such as enjambment, which is the continuation from one line to another to form a single unit of meaning. (Emily Dickinson also used this style in many of her poems.) Such an organization allows readers to shape new perceptions of the familiar – in this case of flowers and the sea and their interaction.

Here are some pictures I took of flowers by the sea in Bandon, Oregon, and my own exploration of Williams’ poetic style to describe Romneya coulteri:

Nestled in foliage silvery green,
bold white Romneyas lift a golden orb

to taste the salty breeze,  or perhaps
to smell for wildfires,

for in the charred remains
the “fried egg” flower heads release their progeny

into the acrid air – returning life
to the ruins.

Romneya coulteri

Dierama pulcherrimum

Lavender and palm trees

Bright red pelargonium

Grassy retreat

Cerastium tomentosum

 

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  • About the Author

    Rhonda Nowak

    Rhonda Nowak is a Rogue Valley gardener, writer and teacher. With more than 25 years of gardening experience and a Ph.D. in literature and language arts education, she combines a love for plants, poetry, and prose in her Literary Gardener blog. ... Full Profile
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