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Who Was William Carlos Williams? The Reasons That Make His Poetry So Unique

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Who was William Carlos Williams?

On September 17th of 1883, William Carlos Williams was born in the place of Rutherford, New Jersey. He had begun writing poetry whereas a particular 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 had been one of the principal poets of the imagist movement, though as time had been carried on, he started to increasingly disagree with the overall value that had been put forth in the work of pound and especially Eliot, who had fallen were attached as well to the European culture as well as traditions. Continuing the experiment, along with various new technologies of meter and lineation, Williams sought to invent an entirely fresh—and singularly American—poetic, whose subject matter was centred 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), which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; 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.

Discuss his life, his struggles, and the reasons that make his poetry so unique.

After receiving an M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1906 and after internship in New York and graduate study in pediatrics in Leipzig, he returned in 1910 to a lifetime of poetry and medical practice in his hometown. In the 1930s, during the Depression, his images became less a celebration of the world and more a catalogue of its wrongs. Such poems as “Proletarian Portrait” and “The Yachts” reveal his skill in conveying attitudes by presentation rather than explanation. In Paterson (5 vol., 1946–58), Williams expressed the idea of the city, which in its complexity also represents man in his complexity. The poem is based on the industrial city in New Jersey on the Passaic River and evokes a complex vision of America and modern man. A prolific writer of prose, Williams in In the American Grain (1925) analysed the American character and culture through essays on historical figures. Three novels form a trilogy about a family—White Mule (1937), In the Money (1940), and The Build-Up (1952). Among his notable short stories are “Jean Beicke,” “A Face of Stone,” and “The Farmers’ Daughters.” His play A Dream of Love (published 1948) was produced in off-Broadway and academic theatres. Williams’s Autobiography appeared in 1951. In 1952 he was named consultant in poetry for the Library of Congress, a position later known as poet laureate, but his poor health prevented him from serving; the appointment was later revoked, during an FBI investigation driven by anti-communist sentiment. A fact crucial to Williams’s intellectual career is that he never went to college at all, proceeding directly from the Horace Mann School in New York to the Medical School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Of “liberal education” he had the minimum, although he had a lot of technical learning. Similar to Evans, the native of America abroad in A Voyage to Pagany (1928), he designates himself “a great zero,” and in his Auto-biography (1951) he registers his dismay when The Waste Land appeared and showed what a learned poet could do with a fully possessed historical past. Of himself and his local modernist colleagues he says, “Literary allusions, save in much attenuated form, were unknown to us. Few had the necessary reading,” The Williams who quit Latin after one term in high school was not likely to be illuminated by the Waste Land footnote directing him to consult “Aeneid, I, 726.” As a self-made American artist consciously isolated from Europe and from history, Williams is an archetype, and it is both the pathos and the bravery of his predicament that the poet Reed Whittemore delineates in his touching and quietly funny biography. The book is touching because Whittemore the poet has entered Williams’s troubled soul sympathetically, but it is funny because Whittemore the critic has applied the scalpel of irony to Williams’s occasionally grandiose formulas and theories, to his fancied “enormous America-saving obligations,” and to his instinct for martyrdom at the hands of the Philistines. Whittemore reveals a Williams closer to a certain figure like the culture drunk Sinclair Lewis than we might have perceived. As Whittemore writes, “Underneath the common man, the kindly tough-guy doctor, he was one of the most determined of that American species, the self-made man, knowing that he had begun as nothing, as an outsider with his nose pressed against the window, but believing in his inexhaustible Americanness that he could be something, in fact anything that he wanted if he just kept at it,” Like the 138-pound Fitzgerald breaking his heart on the practice football field at Princeton, or the over-age Zelda pursuing her hopeless ballet career in Paris, Williams did doggedly keep at it during the long lonely nights, typewriting up in the attic of the, respectable house in Rutherford, N. J. , expressing himself in the improvisations of “automatic writing” or as the village sage angrily instructing his townspeople in the rudiments of the new perception.

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