William Carlos Williams

William Carlos Williams (1883–1963) was a poet, short-story writer, novelist and essayist whose importance to the subsequent development of modern American poetry in the twentieth century grew out of his commitment to recording the “local” experience of Rutherford, New Jersey and its environs. From 1909 until the early 1930s, Williams’s poetry appeared in small journals and specialist editions, but the founding of New Directions by James Laughlin brought the author and young publisher together, and Williams subsequently published the majority of his remaining life’s work with Laughlin’s company. Williams’s career as a poet was supported by his full-time career as a practising physician in his hometown of Rutherford, and his poetry sought to capture the rhythms of the speech he heard around him. His fiction and short stories were also rooted in his local environment, as demonstrated by his Stecher trilogy of novels, beginning with White Mule, which first published by New Directions in 1937 only a year after the company was founded. In this and the subsequent volumes, In the Money (1940) and The Build-up (1952), Williams recounts the lives and speech of working-class immigrant families growing up in New York. Laughlin, who in 1937 described Williams as “the cornerstone of New Directions,” sought to bring out a collection of Williams’s poetry under one cover, an ambition which saw the Complete Collected Poems appear in 1938, before New Directions also published a collected edition of Williams’s later poetry in The Collected Later Poems (1950). Both works formed the inspiration for New Directions’ later scholarly editions of Williams’s collected poems in two volumes, The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Volume I, 1909–1939, edited by A. Walton Litz and Christopher MacGowan, and Volume II, 1939–1962, edited by Christopher MacGowan, which appeared in 1986 and 1988 respectively. As a modernist poet guided in his early work by the goading and friendship of his college friend and fellow New Directions stalwart, Ezra Pound, Williams’s innovative and experimental poetry and prose also found a home under Laughlin’s wing. In 1946 New Directions published the first volume of a prospective four volume long poem entitled Paterson, the subsequent books appearing in 1948, 1949, 1951, before a fifth book appeared in 1958. A revised edition of Williams’s Paterson, edited by Christopher MacGowan, was published in 1992, and these remarkable editions completed the scholarly overhaul of Williams’s poetry undertaken by New Directions throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. His classic of literary Americana and creative non-fiction, In the American Grain (1952) was recently reissued with a new introduction by Rick Moody, and a facsimile edition of the first publication of Spring and All (Paris,1923) was just published with a new introduction by C.D. Wright.

[New Directions would like to thank Professor Ian Copestake for contributing this biography.]

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The Doctor Stories

Fiction by William Carlos Williams

With a contribution by

The Doctor Stories collects thirteen of Williams’s stories (direct accounts of his experiences as a doctor), six related poems, and a chapter from his autobiography that connects the worlds of medicine and writing, as well as a new preface by Atul Gawande, an introduction by Robert Coles (who put the book together), and a final note by Williams’s son (also a doctor) about his famous father. The writings are remarkably direct and freshly true.…
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The Red Wheelbarrow and Other Poems

Gathered here are the gems of William Carlos Williams’s astonishing achievements in poetry. Dramatic, energetic, beautiful, and true, this slim selection will delight any reader—The Red Wheelbarrow & Other Poems is a book to be treasured.
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Al Que Quiere!

Published in 1917 by The Four Seas Company, Al Que Quiere! was William Carlos Williams’s breakthrough book and contains some of his best-loved poems (“Tract,” “Apology,” “El Hombre,” “Danse Russe,” “Smell!, ”January Morning”), as well as a Whitmanesque concluding long poem, “The Wanderer,” that anticipates his epic masterpiece Paterson. Al Que Quiere! is the culmination of an experimental period for Williams that included his translations from Spanish. The Spanish epigraph of Al Que Quiere!…
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By Word of Mouth

Poetry by William Carlos Williams

Edited by Jonathan Cohen

With a contribution by Julio Marzán

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) produced a startling number of translations of both Spanish and Latin American poetry starting during WWI and continuing through the late fifties. Williams grew up in a Spanish-speaking home and sometimes described himself as half-Spanish. His mother was Puerto Rican and his father spoke Spanish fluently. “Spanish is not, in the sense to which I refer, a literary language,” Williams wrote in his Autobiography. “It has a place of its own, an independent place very sympathetic to the New World.…
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Spring and All

Voted by The New York Times as one of the greatest poems of the twentieth century, Spring and All is a manifesto of the imagination – a hybrid of alternating sections of prose and free verse that crystalizes in dramatic, energetic, and beautifully cryptic statements of how language recreates the world. Spring and All contains some of Williams’s best known poetry, including Section I, which opens, “By the road to the contagious hospital” (now commonly known by the title “Spring and All”), and Section XXII, where Williams penned his most famous poem, “The Red Wheelbarrow.…
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In the American Grain

Nonfiction by William Carlos Williams

With a contribution by Rick Moody

Although admired by D. H. Lawrence, this modern classic went generally unnoticed during the years after its publication in 1925. Yet it is “a fundamental book, essential if one proposes to come to terms with American literature” (London Times Literary Supplement). William Carlos Williams was not a historian, but he was fascinated by the texture of American history. Beginning with Columbus’s discovery of the Indies and moving on through Sir Walter Raleigh, Cotton Mather, Daniel Boone, George Washington, Ben Franklin, Aaron Burr, Edgar Allan Poe, and Abraham Lincoln, Williams found in the fabric of familiar episodes new shades of meaning and configurations of character.…
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The Collected Stories of William Carlos Williams

New Directions has long published poet William Carlos Williams’ entire body of short fiction as The Farmers’ Daughters (1961). This new edition of The Collected Stories of William Carlos Williams contains all fifty-two stories combining the early collections The Knife of the Times (1932), Life Along the Passaic (1938) with the later collection Make Light of It (1950) and the great long story, “The Farmers’ Daughters” (1956). When these stories first appeared, their vitality and immediacy shocked many readers, as did the blunt, idiosyncratic speech of Williams’ immigrant and working-class characters.…
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Asphodel, That Greeny Flower & Other Love Poems

“Asphodel, That Greeny Flower,” first published when William Carlos Williams was seventy-two, forms the heart of this new selection of his love poems. Robert Lowell praised “Asphodel” for delivering “to us what was impossible, something that was poetry and beyond poetry.” Lyrical and moving, elegant and supple, it is charged with sheer musical pleasure. In addition to “Asphodel,” eleven other important love poems have been chosen from the whole range of Williams’ writing life––a life whose history of love is reviewed by Herbert Leibowitz in his incisive introduction.…
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Paterson

Paterson is both a place—the New Jersey city in whom the person (the poet’s own life) and the public (the history of the region) are combined. Originally four books (published individually between 1946 and 1951), the structure of Paterson (in Dr. Williams’ words) “follows the course of the Passaic River” from above the great falls to its entrance into the sea. The unexpected Book Five, published in 1958, affirms the triumphant life of the imagination, in spite of age and death.…
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The Collected Poems: Volume II, 1939-1962

Now available as a New Directions Paperbook, The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Volume II, 1939-1962 (originally brought out in 1988) completes the definitive edition of Williams’ published poems (exclusive of Paterson) begun with Volume I. Edited by Christopher MacGowan of the College of William and Mary, this second volume includes the collections Williams published contemporaneously with the first four books of Paterson––The Wedge (1944), The Clouds (1948), and The Pink Church (1949); the two books in which the poet developed his distinctive three-step line––The Desert Music (1954) and Journey to Love (1955); and his final volume, Pictures from Brueghel (1962), which won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for its author.…
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The Collected Poems: Volume I, 1909-1939

Considered by many to be the most characteristically American of our twentieth-century poets, William Carlos Williams “wanted to write a poem/ that you would understand./ …But you got to try hard – ” So that readers could more fully understand the extent of Williams’ radical simplicity, all of his published poetry–excluding Paterson, was reissued in two definitive volumes in 1986 and 1988. Now available as a New Directions Paperbook, this first volume of The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, covering the years 1909 through 1939, begins with the first collection of poems Williams wished to preserve, The Tempers (1913), and includes successive volumes through Adam & Eve & The City (1936) with their contents intact.…
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Something to Say

Something to Say: William Carlos Williams on Younger Poets collects all of Williams’ known writings—reviews, essays, introductions, and letters to the editor—on the two generations of poets that followed him, from Kenneth Rexroth and Louis Zukofsky to Robert Lowell and Allen Ginsberg. What might have been a random collection of occasional pieces achieves remarkable coherence from the singleness of Williams’ poetic vision: his belief that the secret spirit of ritual, of poetry, was trapped in restrictive molds, and, if these could be broken, the spirit would be able to live again in a new, contemporary form.…
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Selected Poems of William Carlos Williams

With the 1985 publication of Charles Tomlinson’s edition of Williams’s Selected Poems, New Directions introduced a gathering larger and more comprehensive than the original 1963 edition. Opening with Professor Tomlinson’s superbly clear and helpful introduction, this selection reflects the most up-to-date Williams scholarship. In addition to including many more poems, Tomlinson has organized the whole in chronological order. “It isn’t what he [the poet] says that counts as a work of art,” Williams maintained, “it’s what he makes, with such intensity of purpose that it lives with an intrinsic movement of its own to verify its authenticity.…
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The Selected Letters Of William Carlos Williams

Long unavailable, The Selected Letters of William Carlos Williams is now reissued as a New Directions Paperbook. Spanning fifty-four years (1902-56), this collection records the creative growth of one of the twentieth century’s most influential and versatile writers. Physician as well as poet and novelist, Williams stole time from his busy obstetric/pediatric practice in Rutherford, New Jersey, to correspond with many of the important literary figures of his day: Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, E.…
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The Doctor Stories

Not just for students and doctors, this volume contains the thirteen “doctor stories” from the collected stories (The Farmers’ Daughters), several of Williams’s most famous poems on medical matters, and “The Practice” from The Autobiography. These writings, together with Dr. Robert Coles’s enthusiastic appraisal of teaching Williams and Dr. William Eric Williams’s personal and touching filial account, “My Father, the Doctor,” make up an intriguing and timely study of the poet as a physician of rare humanity and self-knowledge.…
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Yes, Mrs. Williams

Originally published in 1959, Yes Mrs. Williams has long been unavailable. In recalling one of the “determined women” in his life. William Carlos Williams, the quintessentially American poet of this century, does not write about his mother so much as recreate her. An experimentalist in prose as well as poetry, Williams records the “talk” of Raquel Hélène Rose Hoheb Williams, capturing the contradictions of this Spanish-speaking, Puerto Rican-born, Parisian-trained artist turned New Jersey wile and mother, her strength and cantankerousness, her vitality and sense of failed purpose.…
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I Wanted To Write A Poem

Subtitled “The Autobiography of the Works of a Poet,” this unique volume was the result of a series of informal conversations in the mid-1950s between Dr. Williams, his wife, and Edith Heal, then a student at Columbia University. In the relaxed atmosphere of the Williams home in Rutherford, New Jersey, the three discussed, chronologically, the poet’s works as collected on his very own library shelves. “There was an air of discovery about the whole procedure,” Miss Heal writes in her introduction, “the poet’s excited ’Why I’d forgotten this dedication,’ the unexpected appearance of reviews that had been tucked away in the pages of the books, pencilled corrections in the text, scrawled first drafts on prescription blanks.…
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A Recognizable Image

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Interviews With William Carlos Williams

“Not after the establishment, but speaking straight ahead.” This is how William Carlos Williams referred to his own forthrightness as well as his practice of using only American speech patterns in his poems. In Interviews with William Carlos Williams, Linda Wagner of the English Department, Michigan State University, has assembled Dr. Williams’s most important public statements. The first section, entitled simply “Interviews,” reproduces in toto three in-depth conversations, revealing Dr. Williams’s humor, vitality, and American-ness, as he discusses his theories of poetic meter and diction, his opinions of such contemporaries as Pound and Eliot, and his view of his own role in shaping the course of modern American poetry.…
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The Embodiment Of Knowledge

The miscellany of essays, notes, fragments, and jottings to which William Carlos Williams gave the title The Embodiment of Knowledge was found in manuscript after his death in the archive of his papers at the Beinecke Library at Yale University. Written in 1928-30, and dedicated to his sons, it was intended as a concrete demonstration of the organic nature of education, to show that knowledge is an ongoing process by which we create our selves from day to day.…
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Imaginations

Imaginations makes accessible to the broad reading public five early books by William Carlos Williams, which, except for Kora in Hell, have long been hard to find in their original and complete forms. Written between 1920 and 1932, all five were first published in small editions, three of them in France. These are pivotal and seminal works, books in which a great writer was charting the course he later would follow, experimenting freely, boldly searching for a new kind of prose style to express “the power of the imagination to hold human beings to life and propel them onward.…
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A Voyage To Pagany

William Carlos Williams was already developing and strengthening his American nativist position when Ezra Pound challenged him to close down his medical practice for a “sabbatical” in Europe. “I think you are afraid to take it,” Pound wrote, “for fear of destroying some illusions which you think necessary to your illusions.” Williams risked them and left for Paris. The itinerary of what Williams was to call his “magnificent year” forms the framework of A Voyage to Pagany.…
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The William Carlos Williams Reader

William Carlos Williams’s place among the great poets of our century is firmly established. This anthology of selections drawn from the whole range of his work––poetry, fiction, autobiography, drama and essays––shows conclusively that his prose was also remarkably original, versatile and powerful. It has been edited by M. L. Rosenthal, literary critic and Professor of English at New York University.
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Selected Essays Of William Carlos Williams

Throughout his life, Dr. Williams tirelessly defended and promoted the best in modern literature and art. He contributed widely to leading literary magazines, wrote prefaces and introductions, and lectured at many universities. This selection represents his finest work in criticism. Much of it concerns poetry and poets––T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Karl Shapiro, E. E. Cummings, Ezra Pound, Carl Sandburg, Robert Lowell and many others. Williams also spoke out on painters and paintings as well as music and literature.…
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The Build-Up

The Build-up, Volume 3 of the Stecher Trilogy, picks up the thread of White Mule and In the Money. Although all of the novels deal with the triumphant rise of an immigrant family in the early 1900s, the Build-up is more concerned with the overwhelming drive and ambition of Joe Stecher’s wife, Gurlie. After years of hard work, careful planning (and his wife’s badgering) Joe’s printing business is providing his family with a comfortable income.…
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In The Money

First published by New Directions in 1940, In the Money is a sequel to White Mule, and the second volume in Dr. Williams’s “Stecher Trilogy,” but it also stands alone as a novel complete in itself. White Mule is a study of childhood––of the baby Flossie Stecher and her sister Lottie, and their parents, Joe and Gurlie Stecher, of German and Norwegian origin, living in New York before the first World War.…
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Pictures From Brueghel

This collection makes available work of one of our greatest American poets in the last decade of his life. The first section, Pictures from Brueghel, contains previously uncollected short poems, while the second and third parts are the complete texts of The Desert Music (1954) and Journey to Love (1955), originally published by Random House. In these books, Dr. Williams perfected his “variable foot” metric and achieved full mastery of the “American idiom” which was his lifelong first concern.…
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White Mule

Williams was foremost a poet, but the novels are of great interest. They are important books in their own right, because they present with a poet’s insight, and in a prose style of striking originality, aspects of American life which few other writers have approached. White Mule and its sequels, In the Money and The Build-Up, form a trilogy, the saga of the Stecher family, but each volume is a complete novel by itself.…
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The Autobiography Of William Carlos Williams

William Carlos Williams’s medical practice and his literary career formed an undivided life. For forty years he was a busy doctor in the town of Rutherford, New Jersey, and yet he was able to write more than thirty books. One of the finest chapters in this Autobiography tells how each of his two roles stimulated and supported the other. We meet in these pages many of Williams’s friends: he writes with discerning frankness of the poets H.…
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Many Loves And Other Plays

For this volume, originally published in cloth in 1961, William Carlos Williams collected, and revised, four full-length plays and the libretto of an opera on George Washington. As might be expected of the man who did most in our time to create a new and truly “American” idiom for poetry, Dr. Williams’ writing for the stage challenges producers and actors to extend the range of modern drama. Many Loves, which ran for nearly a year (1959) in repertory at New York’s famous Living Theatre, explores four varieties of human attachment, while A Dream of Love, first produced in 1949, is a penetrating and poetic treatment of infidelity and marriage.…
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The Farmers’ Daughters

For forty-two years the poet William Carlos Williams was a practicing physician in a typical American town in New Jersey. And, as Van Wyck Brooks points out in his introduction to this collection of Dr. Williams’ stories, the doctor “did not treat a man [only] as something to which surgery and drugs applied” but “as material for a work of art.” This point of view produced a dozen or more stories which are true masterpieces, and in all of Williams’ stories there is a vitality and an immediacy unique in American fiction.…
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The New Directions Anthology Of Classical Chinese Poetry

Fiction

Translated from the Classical Chinese by David Hinton Kenneth Rexroth Ezra Pound Gary Snyder William Carlos Williams

Edited by Eliot Weinberger

A rich compendium of translations, The New Directions Anthology of Chinese Poetry is the first collection to look at Chinese poetry through its enormous influence on American poetry. Beginning with Ezra Pound’s Cathay (1915), the anthology includes translations by three other major U.S. poets––William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder––and an important poet-translator-scholar, David Hinton, all of whom have long been associated with New Directions. It is one of the first general anthologies ever to consider the process of translation by presenting different versions of the same poem by multiple translators, as well as examples of the translators rewriting themselves.…
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