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Selected Poetry of William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)


from Representative Poetry On-line
Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto
from 1912 to the present and published by the University of Toronto Press from 1912 to 1967.
RPO Edited by Ian Lancashire
A UTEL (University of Toronto English Library) Edition
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries
© 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto

Index to poems

If you can bring nothing to this place
but your carcass, keep out.
        (Dedication for a Plot of Ground)
  1. Blizzard
  2. Complete Destruction
  3. The crowd at the ball game
  4. Danse Russe
  5. Dedication for a Plot of Ground
  6. Muier
  7. Pastoral
  8. Queen-Anne's Lace
  9. so much depends
  10. Sympathetic Portrait of a Child
  11. To Elsie
  12. Tract
  13. Winter Trees


Notes on Life and Works

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:

See also

Biographical information

Given name: William Carlos
Family name: Williams
Birth date: 1883
Death date: 1963