Williams, William Carlos,
1883–1963, American poet and physician, b. Rutherford, N.J., educated in Geneva, Switzerland, Univ. of Pennsylvania (M.D., 1906), and Univ. of Leipzig, where he studied pediatrics. He is regarded as one of the most important and original American poets of the 20th cent. Williams began his medical practice in 1910 in Rutherford and was a physician for more than 40 years. His early poetry shows the influences of the various poetic trends of the time—from metaphorical imagism in Poems
(1909) and The Tempers
(1913) to free-verse expressionism in Al Que Quiere!
(1917), Kora in Hell
(1920), and Sour Grapes
(1921). Williams observed American life closely, expressed anger at injustice, and recorded his impressions in a lucid, vital style. He developed a verse that is close to the idiom of speech, revealing a fidelity to ordinary things seen and heard. Later volumes of his poetry include Collected Poems
(1934), Collected Later Poems
(1950), Collected Earlier Poems
(1951), Journey to Love
(1955), Pictures from Brueghel, and Other Poems
(1963; Pulitzer Prize), and a five-volume, impressionistic, philosophical poem, Paterson
(1946–58), in which he uses the experience of life in an American city to voice his feelings on the duty of the poet. His essays include those in In the American Grain
(1925), Selected Essays
(1954), and Embodiment of Knowledge
(1974). Among his other works are a collection of short stories, Make Light of It
(1950); plays, including A Dream of Love
(1948) and Many Loves
(1950); and the novels A Voyage to Pagany
(1928), a three-volume chronicle of an immigrant family in America, White Mule
(1937), In the Money
(1940), and The Build-Up
(1952). His autobiography appeared in 1951 and his Selected Letters
was published in 1957.
See biographies by R. Coles (1975) and P. Mariani (1981); studies by J. E. Breslin (1970), S. Tapscott (1984), S. Cushman (1985), A. Fisher-Wirth (1989), W. Berry (2011), and H. A. Leibowitz (2011).
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