Williams, William Carlos (1883 - 1963)

Biography: 

William Carlos Williams served as a physician in his home town of Rutherford, New Jersey, from 1910 to 1951, and in hours after work wrote fiction, poetry, plays, and criticism. He was born on September 17, 1883, in Rutherford, educated at Horace Mann School in New York, and from 1902 until 1906 studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, where he met Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle. He interned at the French Hospital and Nursery and Child's Hospital until 1909, and the next year, after studying briefly in Leipzig, touring Europe, and visiting his old friend Pound in London, set up his private medical practice in Rutherford. In 1912 Williams married Florence (Flossie) Herman, who gave birth to their two sons, William Eric in 1914, and Paul in 1916. Over the next seven years, despite the demands of his medical practice and a young family, Williams published four books of verse, Al Que Quiere! (1917), Kora in Hell (1920), Sour Grapes (1921), and Spring and All (1921), that clearly established him as America's foremost modernist poet. Because his poetry was not received warmly at first, he shifted into fiction and plays, but the major work of his life proved to be Paterson, an epic poem published in five volumes from 1946 to 1958. In 1926 he had won an award from The Dial for a poem titled "Paterson," and the theme stuck. Recognition came slowly. The University of Washington at Seattle invited him to be visiting professor of English in 1948, but his 1949 appointment as consultant of poetry at Library of Congress was withdrawn after an investigation into his associations with Ezra Pound, although the appointment was renewed in 1952. In 1950 Williams was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and in 1953 shared the Bollingen Award with Archibald MacLeish. All his life, from his early editing of Contact in 1923, Williams befriended younger poets. The letters to many, such as Denise Levertov, have survived. On March 4, 1963, Williams died in his sleep after years of illness, especially strokes in 1951-52, 1958, and 1961. He was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Gold Medal for Poetry of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. His volumes of poetry are as follows:

  • Williams, William C. Poems (privately printed, 1909)
  • Williams, William Carlos. The Tempers (London: Elkin Mathews, 1913).
  • --. A Book of Poems: Al Que Quiere! (Boston: The Four Seas Company, 1917). York University Library Special Collections 5773
  • --. Sour Grapes: A Book of Poems (Boston: The Four Seas Company, 1921). York University Library Special Collections 4748
  • --. Spring and All (1923: New York: Frontier Press, 1970). PS 3545 .I544S7 1970 Victoria College Library
  • --. The Cod Head ( Harvest Press, 1932).
  • --. An Early Martyr and Other Poems (New York: Alcestis Press, 1935).
  • Adam & Eve & the City (Peru, Vermont: Alcestis Press, 1936).
  • Complete Collected Poems (Norfolk, Conn.: New Directions, 1938) PS 3545 I544 A17 1938 York University Library
  • The Broken Span (Norfolk, Conn.: New Directions, 1941). York University Library Special Collections 4737
  • The Wedge (Cummington, Mass.: Cummington Press, 1944).
  • Paterson (New York: J. Laughlin, 1963). 5 vols., published separately 1946-58. 811.5 W728pa Trinity College Library
  • --. The Clouds (Wells College Press and Cummington Press, 1948)
  • --. The Pink Church (Golden Goose Press, 1949). York University Library Special Collections 5832
  • The Desert Music, and Other Poems (New York: Random House, 1954). PS 3545 I544D4 Robarts Library
  • Journey to Love (New York: Random House, 1955). PS 3545 I544J6 Robarts Library
  • --. "The Lost Poems of William Carlos Williams," ed. John C. Thirlwall, in New Directions 16 (1957).
  • Pictures from Bruegel, and Other Poems (New York: for J. Laughlin by New Directions, 1962). PS 3545 .I544P45 Trinity College Library

See also

  • The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams (New York: New Directions, 1967). PS 3545 I544Z52 1967B Robarts Library
  • The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams: Volume I, 1909-1939, ed. A. Walton Litz and Christopher MacGowan (New York: New Directions, 1986). PS 3545 I544A17 Robarts Library
  • I Wanted to Write a Poem: the Autobiography of the Works of a Poet, ed. Edith Heal (London: Cape, 1967). PS 3545 I544Z52 1967 Robarts Library
  • The Letters of Denise Levertov and William Carlos Williams, ed. Christopher MacGowan (New York: New Directions, 1998). PS 3562 .E8876Z49 Robarts Library
  • Mariani, Paul. William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981). PS 3545 I544 Z6534 Erindale College Library
  • Something to Say: William Carlos Williams on Younger Poets, ed. James E.B. Breslin (New York: New Directions, 1985.). PS 324 W47 1985 Robarts Library
  • Wagner, Linda Welshimer. William Carlos Williams: A Reference Guide (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1978). Z 8976 .44 W27 Robarts Library
  • --. "Williams, William Carlos." American National Biography Online. American Council of Learned Societies: Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • Wallace, Emily Mitchell. A Bibliography of William Carlos Williams (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1968). Z 8976 .44 W3 Robarts Library
  • William Carlos Williams reads his poetry (Caedmon TC 1047, 1958). PS 3014 Erindale College Library AUDIOCASS
Given Name: 
William Carlos
Family Name: 
Williams
Birth Date: 
September 17, 1883
Death Date: 
March 4, 1963
Nationality: 
Spoken Languages: 

Occupations

Literary Period: 
Literary Movement: 

Illness