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About this poet

On September 17, 1883, William Carlos Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey. He began writing poetry while a student at Horace Mann High School, at which time he made the decision to become both a writer and a doctor. He received his MD from the University of Pennsylvania, where he met and befriended Ezra Pound.

Pound became a great influence on his writing, and in 1913 arranged for the London publication of Williams's second collection, The Tempers. Returning to Rutherford, where he sustained his medical practice throughout his life, Williams began publishing in small magazines and embarked on a prolific career as a poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright.

Following Pound, he was one of the principal poets of the Imagist movement, though as time went on, he began to increasingly disagree with the values put forth in the work of Pound and especially Eliot, who he felt were too attached to European culture and traditions. Continuing to experiment with new techniques of meter and lineation, Williams sought to invent an entirely fresh—and singularly American—poetic, whose subject matter was centered on the everyday circumstances of life and the lives of common people.

His influence as a poet spread slowly during the 1920s and 1930s, overshadowed, he felt, by the immense popularity of Eliot's "The Waste Land"; however, his work received increasing attention in the 1950s and 1960s as younger poets, including Allen Ginsberg and the Beats, were impressed by the accessibility of his language and his openness as a mentor. His major works include Kora in Hell (1920), Spring and All (1923), Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems (1962), the five-volume epic Paterson (1963, 1992), and Imaginations (1970).

Williams's health began to decline after a heart attack in 1948 and a series of strokes, but he continued writing up until his death in New Jersey on March 4, 1963.

It Is a Small Plant

William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963
It is a small plant	
delicately branched and	
tapering conically	
to a point, each branch	
and the peak a wire for	        
green pods, blind lanterns	
starting upward from	
the stalk each way to	
a pair of prickly edged blue	
flowerets: it is her regard,	        
a little plant without leaves,	
a finished thing guarding	
its secret. Blue eyes—	
but there are twenty looks	
in one, alike as forty flowers	        
on twenty stems—Blue eyes	
a little closed upon a wish	
achieved and half lost again,	
stemming back, garlanded	
with green sacks of	        
satisfaction gone to seed,	
back to a straight stem—if	
one looks into you, trumpets—!	
No. It is the pale hollow of	
desire itself counting	        
over and over the moneys of	
a stale achievement. Three	
small lavender imploring tips	
below and above them two	
slender colored arrows	        
of disdain with anthers	
between them and	
at the edge of the goblet	
a white lip, to drink from—!	
And summer lifts her look	        
forty times over, forty times	
over—namelessly.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

William Carlos Williams

William Carlos Williams

Poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright William Carlos Williams is often said to have been one of the principal poets of the Imagist movement.

by this poet

poem
I will teach you my townspeople
how to perform a funeral--
for you have it over a troop
of artists--
unless one should scour the world--
you have the ground sense necessary.

See! the hearse leads.
I begin with a design for a hearse.
For Christ's sake not black--
nor white either--and not polished!
Let it be
poem
Of death
the barber
the barber
talked to me

cutting my
life with
sleep to trim
my hair—

It's just
a moment
he said, we die
every night—

And of 
the newest
ways to grow
hair on

bald death—
I told him
of the quartz
lamp

and of old men
with third
sets of teeth
to the cue

of an old man
who said
at the door—
poem
All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.