Letters as Stories

This is Just to Say By William Carlos Williams

We will start our reading of letters by looking at what appears to be a quickly written note that has been arranged into lines of poetry.  You might as well scan down right now to have a quick look.

Some readers have wondered if Williams actually composed this poem or if he found it written on a piece of paper which had been left on a table or on the icebox.  Is this composed or "found" poetry?

We don't know the answer to this.  What we do know is that Williams was very concerned with the ability of the objects in his poems to trigger feelings.  Rarely are his works either symbolic or metaphorical. 

Now, go ahead and read the poem again.

Here are a few things to think about. 

How might Williams be playing on the word "just"? What is so just about what he is saying anyway?

The speaker in this poem asks for forgiveness, but is he really sorry?

Think about the form.  Why did he arrange the poem into such short lines? Why not keep it written more like a note?

Next, we will go on to read the lyrics to a famous song written by Canadian icon, Leonard Cohen.  Why might he have written this song as a letter?