The Life of William Carlos Williams

At the University of Pennsylvania, he stuck to his word, practicing medicine and writing poetry. His parents really influenced him to study to become a doctor so Williams worked extremely hard. In college, Williams was befriended by poet Ezra Pound. He was the main person who encouraged him to continue writing poetry. Williams would come to his dormitory every night and Ezra would help him. Slowly, Ezra developed him into a great poet. After Williams completed his studies, he had his heart set on both writing poetry and a medical career. Three years later (in 1909) Williams’ first poems were published. A year after that Williams began a private medical practice in Rutherford, something which lasted for over 40 years. Every day he’d practice medicine, and then come home around one o’clock in the morning and write poetry. By 1912, his medical practice had given Williams the financial freedom to write what he wished. Williams started writing poetry all day. Many of these poems got published, and during the 1920’s-1950’s, he was venerated by other poets because he rejected formalism. Over this period of time Williams received many awards and published many other poems. Williams also married Florence Herman in 1912. Sadly, Williams Carlos Williams died on March 4, 1963. He may be gone, but his poetry still lives.

William Carlos Williams was a very established poet back in his day. But do you think Williams had no help making himself better at poetry? Actually, Williams had two other poets help develop him as a writer. One was Ezra Pound. When Williams was in college, Ezra helped develop Williams’s “aesthetic imagism.” This approach to poetry emphasized concrete ideas over abstractions. This is one of the key qualities that make William Carlos Williams different from most other poets. Another way Ezra helped Williams become a great poet is that he brought him to a literary circle that was run by the poet Hilda Doolittle. Hilda showed Williams that poetry wasn’t all about writing about nature and memories, but just random everyday things. A good example of this is Williams’ poem, “The Red Wheelbarrow.” There’s nothing special about a wheelbarrow, but still Williams can make an interesting poem out of it. Since Williams became a great poet at such an early age, he had many early successes. His first initial publication was in 1909, and seventeen years after that he received the Dial Award for excellence in his writing. In 1931 Williams received Guarantor’s Prize for Poetry. After those two awards, William felt he was pretty accomplished and could speak his opinion. He disliked all the “isms” of writing, especially people who wrote “loosely and carelessly.” He also thought modern American life had no thought to it. For saying this he was loved by many people, and I think changed the world be making people think more about things before they actually do them.

Now that I have read lots of Williams’ poetry, I really notice how different the type of poetry he wrote is from other poets of his time. Unlike most poets during his time, Williams didn’t rhyme at all. Out of all of Williams’ poems I’ve read, there’s only one poem that rhymes, and I think it was probably an accident because it’s only in one line of the whole poem. I was also amazed at how he presented scenes of ordinary life without any comment. It really left you wondering what he meant. The two main parts of figurative language that Williams uses are metaphors and assonance. One thing I admire about Williams’ poetry is how he makes his poetry so detailed. It’s remarkably easy for me to picture the images he writes about in my mind. One thing I noticed right away was that Williams took writing very seriously and was very precise about how he wrote his poetry. Most of Williams’ poems had a similar structure. He’d usually have 1-10 lines in a stanza, and 1-20 stanzas in each poem. He also usually has the same number of lines in each stanza. Another thing that interested me was sometimes Williams would string two words together to make you read it faster. Williams is consistent at having space where two lines could fit after each stanza (white space). The one thing that in every poem stood out was the line breaks. He’d make the line break at the perfect time to sustain an action, make the poem flow or stop, or leave you with a question or answer. Even though back when Williams’ published his first poems they seemed different and strange, they caught on and were loved. Today, many poets use Williams’ techniques.

There were dozens of poets to choose from for the ORP, but out of all of them I chose William Carlos Williams. The main reason I chose Williams as my poet was because he’s my dad’s all-time favorite poet. He had many of his poetry books and information about him, so if I had any questions my dad knew all the answers. When I first started reading Williams’ poems, I thought they were rather strange. But as my dad explained how he wrote and what some of the poems meant, I started really understanding his poetry and now he is my favorite poet. From reading Williams’ poetry, I have learned one extremely special and important thing about writing poetry. That you don’t always have to write about things that have a message to have a great poem, you can write about random objects and still have a wonderful poem. I would recommend Williams to more advanced readers who really understand poetry and already know a little bit about his past, because knowing Williams’ background really helped me understand his poetry.

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