I came across this great article by Ed Wickliffe, where he explores William Carlos Williams now famous quote, “No ideas but in things.” I’ve had numerous instructors interpret this idea to mean that a poem should only be about an object/image–everything must stem from that object. Wickliffe states that this anthem does indeed call for a focus on an object, as it guarantees an image, guarantees concreteness that allows (forces?) the reader to connect on some level. Wickliffe then explains how two imagism rules support Williams’ idea (which isn’t really original, as the author points out), and the impact such a stance has had on poetry.
What do you think? Is there room for the experiential in poetry, or must every poem be based on a thing?