The News from Poems (choral cycle) 2004, 12′

for elite SATB chorus (12-24 voices)

settings of poems by William Carlos Williams

Commissioned by The Kansas City Chorale

Available from Subito Music

The News from Poems – The Red Wheelbarrow
The Loving Dexterity
Defiance to Cupid
This is Just to Say
Epilogue

These tiny poems of William Carlos Williams are crystalline visual snapshots. Each describes a single image: a red wheelbarrow, a decapitated flower, some plums. Yet in each single gesture, instantaneous and finite, the poet creates a whole universe that resonates and suspends time like a great fermata. In setting these poems, I have avoided embellishing the simple direct language that was so revolutionary. Rather, I have tried only to put the words and images out in high relief, and to give them a sound universe that reflects my feelings about them.

But Williams didn’t write only short imagistic gems. The pediatrician/obstetrician also wrote long, long poems observing the smallest details of mundane life in his town in New Jersey, rendering them utterly universal. The title of this choral work comes from the single line buried deep within “Of Asphodel, that greeny flower.” I use it for both prologue and epilogue:

It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.

Susan Kander’s “The News from Poems” was a richly varied group of William Carlos Williams settings. I liked the short bursts of sound at the opening, the yelps and staccato cries of “The Loving Dexterity,” ,the aggressive but controlled fortissimo of “Defiance to Cupid” and the choral imitation of plucked strings in “This is Just to Say.”–Paul Horsley, The Kansas City Star