circa 1955: Portrait of American poet William Carlos Williams sitting in front of a bookcase with a book on his lap. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The poem is, of course, “This Is Just to Say” by the canonical modernist William Carlos Williams… These are just a handful of the newest versions of a joke nearly as old as the poem itself… It makes some sense. The poem is short, clocking in at just 149 characters in total, easily cut to under 140. It is iconic, quickly recognized if faintly remembered by anyone who took a high school English class. Its language is simple and striking. “It’s just an elegantly constructed piece of English syntax,” Burt said. “It’s very close to a lot of things we actually say in daily life, but off. It’s easy to make it funny. It’s easy to make it serious. There’s lots of breadth to it.” Moreover, he pointed out, unlike many other memorable poems, there is no meter and no rhyme, making it a touch easier to parody than, say, Wordsworth.
…It all adds up to a poem inadvertently perfect for replication on social media. And then comes the fact that it is a weirdo confession about compulsive overeating — that is, catnip for the #millennials on the #netz.