It did fit with the lecture, but what I wanted to accomplish was more than bring the Depression into view, I wanted to provide stark relief. And, I wanted to share some art. So, I told them about the poem, how Williams wrote it during the Depression, and how its simplicity allowed the reader to feel the goodness of a simple pleasure, by a simple woman. In my mind, it is simply a beautiful poem.
There is a hint that Williams is somewhat condescending to the poor old woman and her simplicity, but I think he more or less is just relating what he sees; he sees a poor old woman enjoying a cheap pleasure, a bag of plums, which is probably the greatest luxury she can afford.
The poem, like most poems, is best when read aloud, so I read it to my class. I saw that the students could smell and taste the plums too. It is a powerful poem. Its words evoke sights and sounds that can really be enjoyed.
One of my students liked the poem well enough that he went to the library and pulled a collection of Williams’ poems off the shelf. He read through them and liked some, didn’t like others.
But, I asked him If he found any poems he liked. And, he said that he did find two poems he liked. “Great,” I said, “you are now two poems richer.”
Don’t be troubled by a few missteps; no one bats a thousand all the time.
Photo Credit: See-Ming Lee, Plums at the NY Farmers’ Market, Creative Commons ASA License 3.0