Life and Works of William Carlos Williams


Early Life and Education

Known as one of the most influential poets of his time, William Carlos Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1883. He had a difficult childhood; his father died when he was very young. After his father’s demise, his mother remarried soon, and the family moved away from their old neighborhood. The new house they rented in West Philadephia did not have enough room for him to have his own room, so he slept in an alcove in the kitchen. This is where he first started writing poetry.

Following his passion, he graduated from Lafayette College with a degree in English Literature in 1905. He continued his studies at Johns Hopkins University and Oxford University, where he met Ezra Pound. He returned to America to teach at Columbia University while also publishing poetry and short stories.

His early writings were published in Sargasso Sea and The New Review. After graduating high school, Williams enrolled at Harvard College but left before finishing because he found out about his wife’s adultery. He went home to be with her, but she left him for another man and divorced him. Heartbroken, Williams enlisted in the United States Army. There, he met Edith Shiffert, who would later become his second wife and muse for many of his works. She became pregnant soon after they were married and had a daughter named Betty in 1917. In 1920, while staying at their summer home in Massachusetts, Williams contracted pneumonia, leading to congestive heart failure due to chronic rheumatic heart disease. He died three days later, on March 4th, 1922, at thirty-nine years old.

His Career

William Carlos Williams was a doctor, a pediatrician, an author, a poet, and an art critic. He studied medicine at Columbia University before attending Philadelphia medical school to become a doctor. After that, he practiced medicine in Rutherford with his father until he died in 1930. During this time, he wrote many poems, including “The Great Figure,” one of his most famous works. In 1933 he became head of pediatrics at the Bellevue Hospital Medical College, where he worked until his retirement in 1957. After retiring from Bellevue Hospital Medical College, Williams moved to Connecticut, where he spent most of his time writing poetry for nearly two decades before dying on March 4th, 1963, at age 80.

Major Works

Williams is best known for his poems “The Great American Novel,” “This Is Just To Say,” “Spring and All,” and “Paterson.” His style was often called Imagism, which he developed from his studies in French Symbolist poetry. He also wrote short stories, novels, essays, book reviews, translations of works by Antonin Artaud and André Gide, a children’s book on baseball (Danny Gets His Wish), a libretto for an opera about St. Francis of Assisi, and some medical texts. In addition to being a poet, Williams was also a pediatrician and the founder of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.

Later Years

Williams was a prolific writer during his later years, publishing over 90 poems in his lifetime. He continued to explore new themes and forms, including prose poetry, collage-style poems, and cut-up techniques. One of his most famous works, The Red Wheelbarrow, was published in 1923.

Death and Legacy

William Carlos Williams is best known for his work in the Imagist and Objectivist movements, which sought to strip poetry down to its essential elements and focus on objective, concrete imagery. Although he studied medicine, he often incorporated his medical experiences into his poetry. He was also a novelist, essayist, and translator, and his work has been widely anthologized and praised for its innovation and simplicity. He is known for his innovative use of language and his unique style of poetry. Williams was a crucial figure in the imagist movement, which sought to create vivid, precise images using an economy of language. He is often associated with modernism and the American avant-garde.

Suggested Readings

Analysis of “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos William

Journey to an Unknown Planet