‘Spring Storm’ by William Carlos Williams

William Carlos Williams (1883–1963) was one of the most important American poets of the 20th century: a modernist of the imagist kind, he was known for using simple and colloquial language to express his ideas—a feature many critics now consider typical of modern American poetry. This can be contrasted with the modernists such as T. S. Eliot, whose works, to the contrary, resort to complex vocabulary, imagery and symbolism, and which can give off a rather elitist vibe.

William Carlos Williams

The poem presented here, ‘Spring Storm’, serves as a good example of imagism: there are no complex, intertextual references or intellectual pretences. Instead, the poet shares an image coming straight from everyday life, one we are all familiar with. Of course, the image is not here for its own sake: it does stand for something.

After you read the poem, reflect on the symbolism of a spring storm and the change of seasons. There’s the literal change from winter to spring; what can it mean as a symbol? What does it mean to you?

The sky has given over 
its bitterness. 
Out of the dark change 
all day long 
rain falls and falls 
as if it would never end. 
Still the snow keeps 
its hold on the ground. 
But water, water 
from a thousand runnels! 
It collects swiftly, 
dappled with black 
cuts a way for itself 
through green ice in the gutters. 
Drop after drop it falls 
from the withered grass-stems 
of the overhanging embankment.


Find the words in the poem with the following meaning:

  • an unpleasantly sharp taste; a feeling of anger and unhappiness
  • the surface of the earth
  • a very small stream
  • quickly, with great speed
  • marked with small spots or patches
  • a trough or channel that carries off rainwater
  • a tiny amount of liquid
  • the main body of a plant, a stalk
  • dry, shrivelled, decaying

To check you answers, click here for the answer key.


Free e-books by William Carlos William (via Project Gutenberg)

Grammaticus Pinterest board dedicated to William Carlos Williams

Image credit: cover photo by Pratik Gupta on Unsplash.

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