For poet William Carlos Williams, poems were a way of life and a way to express life. Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey on September 17 in 1883. His father was a British businessperson in New York while his mother was an artistic Puerto Rican. Williams began writing poetry while he was still a student at the Horace Mann High School and pursued his study of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. His lifelong friendship with Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle during his University days helped him to fulfill his dream to become a doctor and a writer at the same time. After earning his M.D. in 1906, Williams studied advanced pediatrics in Germany then set up practiced as a pediatrician and a general practitioner in his hometown. He eventually became head pediatrician of a General Hospital near Paterson. Ezra Pound helped him with his collection of poems known as “The Tempers” (1913). Of all the William Carlos Williams’ poems, this would be the second collection he arranged for London publication. Williams married Florence Herman in 1912 and continued to experiment in several writing styles like terza rima and free verse but stylistically preferred the line over the sentence.
William Carlos Williams’ poems and politics helped him became a major poet of the Imagist movement. He wrote a significant amount of Dadaism and Cubism and was considered as a major writer in the modernist movement. Williams is a doctor and a poet who wrote in varying styles and techniques that had created an immense influence on the 20th century. Although his works were often radically experimental, they reflected emotional restraint and heightened the readers sensory experienced by the use of articulated common speech. He invented a new poetic tone centered on everyday circumstances of the lives of the common people after he increasingly disagreed on the values relayed in the works of Pound and Eliot. His determination to create poetry out of American idioms on the rhythm of everyday speech in a clear, distinctive, American voice was shaped by his daily contact with the patients he saw in surgery.
Williams significant literary breakthrough was “Spring and All” published in 1923 which was grounded in colloquialism written in prose and poetry. He was awarded the Dial Award in 1926. It was actually his first recognition for his writing works. He received the Loines Award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1948. He was then elected as a member of the group on the following year, 1950. The National Book Award for poetry was also awarded to him on same year. He was appointed as a Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1952. He and Archibald Macleish were named double winners of the Bollingen prize in poetry sometime in 1952. Williams was also awarded the Levinson Prize for Poetry and the Oscar Blumenthal Award. Among his most celebrated and crowning achievements was his epic poem entitled Paterson. “Paterson” was a five-volume, small-town life epic of his belief in the poetic nature of dailiness. Williams’ “Pictures from Breughel and Other Poems” was the last published collection, which was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize. It also won the Gold Medal for Poetry of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
In 1948, he had a heart attack followed by a series of strokes. He was forced to retire from his medical practice but continued to write. He excelled as a physician and as a poet. His works continued to receive increasing attention in the 1950s and the 1960s. He received the National Book Award in 1950 and the Pulitzer Prize in 1963. “Kora in Hell” published in 1920 expressed Williams dark side, which described the hero as sometimes lonely wanting to be free who regularly, steals into the darkness and sometimes for tryst. He was a highly acclaimed writer until his death in March 4, 1963.
William Carlos Williams poems portrayed true to the speech and trapped psyches of his observations about his environment, the people he knew and of the New England country. His writings carried more than mere pastoral charm evidenced by the flow of dark elegiac and tragic strains. The multiracial, violent and exuberant streams of speech and behavior described the whole nation’s character. Marked urban volatility was presumed to be the result of lack of awareness on general and regional history. Williams felt that the correct use of American language is vital to modern American poetry than knowledge on plain English language construction and grammar in order to discover a form more appropriate for the Americans. His works are unique and clear which made them easy and enjoyable to read. William Carlos Williams’ poems rejected sentimentality and vagueness. Although spontaneous improvements on his writing style had made young poets overlooked creativity and artistry, he actually became an inspiration for many poets. His writings projected sensual, interconnected, associative remarkable sprightliness. His writings’ transparent relaxed colloquialism coupled with startling shifts of focus certainly created eloquent passages with rhythm and phrasing artistically controlled.
Williams’ poems express his passion to help people. His love for humanity is apparent in his works. He loved to talk and take care of his patients and the people around him. He had mixed character of being compassionate, energetic, completely responsive, socially conscious, urbane person to being sometimes depressive or tough, independent, capricious man. Williams demonstrated this in his writings, and notably told readers that he writes what he feels and not just say what he observes. These feelings of attraction and interconnection with the locale made him mirrored the speech of the American people in poetry. He declared that he has no interest in the speech of the English country people because he finds it artificial. He sought to know more of the American language and any modifications associated by the American environment with the intention to speak on an equal level to his readers. He wanted to freely express and use the language while exploring possible American materials that could effectively communicate his point of view.
His marvelous analysis and interpretation made him popular on his human view on things, life, people and environment. His works are nearly inexhaustible reservoir of the events in the twentieth century American themes and images. Descriptions were expressed through a voice that is unique in the history of literature. William Carlos Williams’ poems focus on ordinary day-to-day scenes such as the urban landscape and the immediate environment. Some are purely descriptive with the working class and poor. Some are created from visual arts. His voice demonstrated his need to deconstruct what has become in order to create something in fresher vision and language. His writings demonstrated his need to discover than making simple observation and imposition on order. He had definitely established an American kind of poem distinct from European forms by innovative use of common objects and experience as topic. He is considered as one of the important innovators in American poetry who succeeded to make the ordinary appear as extraordinary making clear and descriptive imagery. A number of his prose writings covered essay, trilogy of novels, autobiography and drama. He looked at American life closely and boldly expressed his anger at injustice in a lucid, vital style.
William Carlos Williams’ World View / Political Views
Many modern liberals considered that Williams’ writings contained liberal democratic issues. William Carlos Williams’ poems are deft and challenging and pursued an independent diverse course in an intentionally selective manner recognizing an object for what it literally is other than what it symbolizes. This practice of breaking through preconceptions about conventional poetry to write more on his views on everyday people and happenings made him discover and in a way exemplify sentiments on his work “Proletarian Portrait” about American poverty. He made publications on politically radical journals, which indicates that his political commitments were more on the left and far from what the term liberal means. His published writings on Blast and New Masses were plain, simple, direct illustration of his personal political preferences but then modern liberals still portrayed him as aligned with liberal democratic issues. In William Carlos Williams’ poems there is visual intensity, which transcends boundaries. Williams was a socialist and his works openly expressed his opposing views on capitalism.
The poem “The Yachts” expressed Williams’ perception on existing social positions and conditions where he considered the rich elite as parasites. He further declared the masses as striving for revolution. In “The Yachts”, he particularly portrayed the poor masses watery bodies attempt to sink the yacht in an earnest intention to end the horror of the race. In 1944, he wrote “The Wedge” where he expressed socialism as an inevitable progress of the human race and treated it as a vital point for the emergence and development of true art. In 1949, the “The Pink Church” was published. The poem was actually about the human body but was misunderstood in the dangerous pro-communist context of McCarthyism. This event led him to lose consultancy position with the Library of Congress. Anti-communist movements clearly indicated their objections of the writings and similar events. Williams believed that artists should be primarily devoted to writing as it is their passion and resist production or integration of propaganda within their artworks. However, he also claimed that such can be made to serve the proletariat.
The Red Wheelbarrow
A scene that he witnessed in Passaic, New Jersey, inspired “The Red Wheelbarrow.” The opening lines “so much depends” set forth the tone of the poem, which was broken up in various intervals, and seem to reveal his inner thoughts while he feared for the life of the sick young girl he attended at that time. The pictorial style in which the poem was written was coordinated with the expert opinions of Alfred Stieglitz, a photographer, and Charles Sheeler, a photographer-painter. The “Red Wheelbarrow” is a simple, elegant and wonderfully evocative poem that makes one look intently at an ordinary object through “the prick of a pin which seems to be at the verge of revelation”. It practically brought him back to a significant point in time as he continued to stare at the object and made connections through expressions filled with analogy about life and life sources. The poem was created at Williams’ early stage of evolution as a poet. The poem was centered on objective representation of an object from an Imagist philosophical point of view of “no ideas but in things.”
William Carlos Williams’style was to strike a new conversation by design where painted images and arrangement of words reflected his translation of the relationship of his physical surroundings converted into visual images, which broadened the implication of that on which “so much depends”. This is his way to affirm the understanding of his human experience although the prose-like monologue of Paterson was in direct contrast to his usual short haiku-like form. Among all William Carlos William poems, Paterson was the longest piece. William Carlos Williams’ poems have an imaginative, typographical suspension. Williams generally practiced categorization on some points to proceed with his art.