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About this poet

On September 17, 1883, William Carlos Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey. He began writing poetry while a student at Horace Mann High School, at which time he made the decision to become both a writer and a doctor. He received his MD from the University of Pennsylvania, where he met and befriended Ezra Pound.

Pound became a great influence on his writing, and in 1913 arranged for the London publication of Williams's second collection, The Tempers. Returning to Rutherford, where he sustained his medical practice throughout his life, Williams began publishing in small magazines and embarked on a prolific career as a poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright.

Following Pound, he was one of the principal poets of the Imagist movement, though as time went on, he began to increasingly disagree with the values put forth in the work of Pound and especially Eliot, who he felt were too attached to European culture and traditions. Continuing to experiment with new techniques of meter and lineation, Williams sought to invent an entirely fresh—and singularly American—poetic, whose subject matter was centered on the everyday circumstances of life and the lives of common people.

His influence as a poet spread slowly during the 1920s and 1930s, overshadowed, he felt, by the immense popularity of Eliot's "The Waste Land"; however, his work received increasing attention in the 1950s and 1960s as younger poets, including Allen Ginsberg and the Beats, were impressed by the accessibility of his language and his openness as a mentor. His major works include Kora in Hell (1920), Spring and All (1923), Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems (1962), the five-volume epic Paterson (1963, 1992), and Imaginations (1970).

Williams's health began to decline after a heart attack in 1948 and a series of strokes, but he continued writing up until his death in New Jersey on March 4, 1963.

Poem [on getting a card]

William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963
on getting a card
long delayed
from a poet whom I love
but

with whom I differ
touching
the modern poetic
technique

I was much moved 
to hear
from him if
as yet he does not

concede the point
nor is he
indeed conscious of it
no matter

his style 
has other outstanding
virtues
which delight me

From The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Vol. 2: 1909-1939. Copyright © 1953 by William Carlos Williams. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

From The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Vol. 2: 1909-1939. Copyright © 1953 by William Carlos Williams. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

William Carlos Williams

William Carlos Williams

Poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright William Carlos Williams is often said to have been one of the principal poets of the Imagist movement.

by this poet

poem
The pure products of America
go crazy—
mountain folk from Kentucky

or the ribbed north end of 
Jersey
with its isolate lakes and

valleys, its deaf-mutes, thieves
old names
and promiscuity between

devil-may-care men who have taken
to railroading
out of sheer lust of adventure—

and young slatterns, bathed
in
poem
They call me and I go. 
It is a frozen road 
past midnight, a dust 
of snow caught 
in the rigid wheeltracks. 
The door opens. 
I smile, enter and 
shake off the cold. 
Here is a great woman 
on her side in the bed. 
She is sick, 
perhaps vomiting, 
perhaps laboring 
to give birth to 
a tenth child. Joy! Joy!
poem
Of asphodel, that greeny flower,
		like a buttercup
				upon its branching stem-
save that it's green and wooden-
		I come, my sweet,
				to sing to you.
We lived long together
		a life filled,
				if you will,
with flowers.  So that 
		I was cheered
				when I came first to know
that there were flowers also