William Carlos WilliamsWilliam Carlos Williams was a practicing pediatrician throughout his life; he delivered over 2,000 babies and wrote poems on his prescription pads. Williams was a classmate of poets Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle, and his early poetry reveals the influence of Imagism. He later went on to champion the use of colloquial speech; his ear for the natural rhythms of American English helped free American poetry from the iambic meter that had dominated English verse since the Renaissance. His sympathy for ordinary working people, children, and everyday events in modern urban settings make his poetry attractive and accessible. "The Red Wheelbarrow" (1923), like a Dutch still life, finds interest and beauty in everyday objects.
Williams cultivated a relaxed, natural poetry. In his hands, the poem was not to become a perfect object of art as in Stevens, or the carefully re-created Wordsworthian incident as in Frost. Instead, the poem was to capture an instant of time like an unposed snapshot -- a concept he derived from photographers and artists he met at galleries like Stieglitz's in New York City. Like photographs, his poems often hint at hidden possibilities or attractions, as in "The Young Housewife" (1917).
He termed his work "objectivist" to suggest the importance of concrete, visual objects. His work often captured the spontaneous, emotive pattern of experience, and influenced the "Beat" writing of the early 1950s.
Like Eliot and Pound, Williams tried his hand at the epic form, but while their epics employ literary allusions directed to a small number of highly educated readers, Williams instead writes for a more general audience. Though he studied abroad, he elected to live in the United States. His epic, Paterson (five vols., 1946-58), celebrates his hometown of Paterson, New Jersey, as seen by an autobiographical "Dr. Paterson." In it, Williams juxtaposed lyric passages, prose, letters, autobiography, newspaper accounts, and historical facts. The layout's ample white space suggests the open road theme of American literature and gives a sense of new vistas even open to the poor people who picnic in the public park on Sundays. Like Whitman's persona in Leaves of Grass, Dr. Paterson moves freely among the working people.
on which their feet slip as they climb,
paced by their dogs!
laughing, calling to each other -