Home > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches 2014 > Daily Dispatch #182

July 4, 2014: No Things but in Ideas

No ideas but in things
Williams Carlos Williams

The other night, as Pete, my friend Patty, and I were talking, I blurted out the above quote, which was in the context of my saying that I was an ideas person. Pete immediately said that he did not get it. The subject then immediately changed, so I was not able to explain what this meant to him or to Patty.

“No ideas but in things” was a line that was included in Williams Carlos William’s lengthy poem “Patterson,” which is about the town in New Jersey. It was not a direct statement about imagistic poetry, but rather a line, embedded in the text.

However, scholars pounced upon it and began speculating as to this line’s meaning. I have always regarded it as central to what Williams and other poets in his time were attempting to do. These poets (and this later included Allen Ginsberg) were of the mind that the subject of poetry should be on things that can be described, this as opposed to abstract concepts. This is because abstract images don’t create mental images. Rather, they create images and descriptions of the things they create.

Gertrude Stein was saying the same when she said “a rose is a rose is a rose.”

I am now advancing this claim. I am going to go down having said “no things but in ideas.” This means that nothing, absolutely nothing, comes about unless one envisions it first. I later told Pete and Patty that I’m an ideas person, adding that I’m good at coming up with ideas but not so good at following through with them. I added that I’m okay with this since coming up with ideas is a writerly strength.

The truth be known (and truth is an abstract concept. Try to picture truth. You can’t. Rather, all you can picture is objects representing truth, like a court judge). I am not really okay with my being just an ideas person. This is because I well know that the terms ideas person and bullshit artist are synonymous terms. Really, everyone has ideas. It’s acting upon those ideas that the rubber hits the road. (Good analogy here – the image of car tire rubber skidding along on pavement immediately brings to mind the subject of getting going.)

Giddyup and Get ‘er done. The first person who contacts me, and tells me when and where I used these phrases will win a prize. I, as a writer, come up with at least 1,000 really good ideas a year, and this is most likely an understatement. And I maybe act on one of these ideas every three years. This has got to change. I’m going to need to prioritize and figure out what projects I’ve abandoned. Then I need to finish them.

In the meantime, lots of distractions. The horses are one thing, the garden is another. I bounce like a ping pong ball from one thing to the next. I must, at least in the mornings, ignore these distractions and act upon my ideas. Dispatches are somewhat of an anchor, one that keeps me from floating away from the computer.

I’m going to work on my horse and rider related accident book outline. No things but in ideas, indeed.

Next: 183. 7/5/14: A Run of good Weather