Kora in Hell

The place of Kora

The 1920 Four Seas Co. edition, left, and the 1957 City Lights edition, right.
The 1920 Four Seas Co. edition, left, and the 1957 City Lights edition, right.

Typically when I teach William Carlos Williams’s sequence of improvisations Kora in Hell, we spend a lot of time on the name in the title: Kora, or Persephone, the mythological figure Williams takes up as a kind of avatar for his own struggle to break free of “the traditionalists of plagiarism” and come up to the surface of the new. As he says in I Wanted to Write a Poem: “I am indebted to Pound for the title. We had talked about Kora, the Greek parallel of Persephone, the legend of Springtime captured and taken to Hades.

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