Tom Devaney teaches Williams's 'The Last Words of My English Grandmother' to high-school students

I invited Tom Devaney to teach a poem to a group of high-school juniors back in 2010. He brought with him William Carlos Williams's poem “The Last Words of My English Grandmother” because, as he told the students, he likes to hear voices in a poem and also likes to quote his own grandmother in his poems. The first nine minutes of the video are taken up with preliminaries, so if you want to skip to the discussion, move the time dial to 8:50. To watch the video, click here or anywhere on the image above. Click here to visit the PennSound page that includes all twelve of these videos — two sets of six poets each teaching one poem to high school students.

The Last Words of My English Grandmother
William Carlos Williams

There were some dirty plates
and a glass of milk
beside her on a small table
near the rank, disheveled bed--

Wrinkled and nearly blind
she lay and snored
rousing with anger in her tones
to cry for food,

Gimme something to eat—
They're starving me—
I'm all right—I won't go
to the hospital. No, no, no

Give me something to eat!
Let me take you
to the hospital, I said
and after you are well

you can do as you please.
She smiled, Yes
you do what you please first
then I can do what I please—

Oh, oh, oh! she cried
as the ambulance men lifted
her to the stretcher—
Is this what you call

making me comfortable?
By now her mind was clear—
Oh you think you're smart
you young people,

she said, but I'll tell you
you don't know anything.
Then we started.
On the way

we passed a long row
of elms. She looked at them
awhile out of
the ambulance window and said,

What are all those
fuzzy looking things out there?
Trees? Well, I'm tired
of them and rolled her head away.