William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

                It is difficult
to get the news from poems
       yet men die miserably every day
                for lack
of what is found there.

"Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"


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introduction & biography

William Carlos Williams. Excerpts from influential critical commentary on the following poems: The Young Housewife; Portrait of a Lady; Queen-Anne's-Lace; The Widow's Lament in Springtime; The Great Figure; Spring and All; To Elsie; The Red Wheelbarrow; Young Sycamore; The Descent of Winter; This is Just to Say; The Yachts; Asphodel, That Greeny Flower, Book I; The Descent; Landscape with the Fall of Icarus; Proletarian Portrait. Also, a biography of William Carlos Williams. Modern American Poetry (U of Illinois). Ed. Cary Nelson.

"Biography: William Carlos Williams." Poetry Foundation. Ed. Catherine Halley. Good, encyclopedia-type introduction to William Carlos Williams's themes, style and techniques, with samples of poems.

"William Carlos Williams." A brief introduction to William Carlos Williams. Academy of American Poets.

"William Carols Williams." Poetry Archive. Directors, Andrew Motion & Richard Carrington.

"On 'The Red Wheelbarrow'" (How to Read a Poem). Great Books Foundation and Academy of American Poets.

Baldwin, Neil. An introduction to Patterson from Baldwin's essay about the 1950 National Book Award winner.

"William Carlos Williams." Literary Encyclopedia. Eds. Robert Clark, Emory Elliott, Janet Todd. An introduction to William Carlos Williams, from a database that provides signed literary criticism by experts in their field, and is available to individuals for a reasonably-priced subscription [subscription service].


literary criticism

Cirasa, Robert J. A review of The Lost Works of William Carlos Williams: The Volumes of Collected Poetry as Lyrical Sequences (1995). Reviewed by Bryce Conrad, H-Net Review Sept. 1996.

Costello, Bonnie. "William Carlos Williams in a World of Painters." Professor Costello reviews two books that take as their subject Williams' participation in the art world in the early 20th century: A Recognizable Image: William Carlos Williams on Art and Artists Ed Bram Dijkstra, and William Carlos Williams and the American Scene, 1920-1940 by Dickran Tashjian. Boston Review June/July 1979.

Gelpi, Albert. Introduction to A Coherent Splendor: The American Poetic Renaissance, 1910–1950." Cambridge UP 1987. "Gelpi traces the emergence of American Modernist poetry as a reaction to, and outgrowth of, the Romantic ideology of the nineteenth century."

Hammer, Langdon. "Lecture 16 - William Carlos Williams." "The poetry of William Carlos Williams is presented and analyzed. His use of enjambment to surprise and transform is examined in order to highlight Williams's interest in depicting creative and cognitive processes. The Imagist qualities of much of Williams's poetry is considered alongside his engagement with modernist art--particularly the preoccupation of Duchamp and Cubist painters with the process of representing sensual perception. His free verse, which includes the innovative use of white space and carefully, visually balanced lines, establishes his position as one of the most visually-oriented poets in all of modernism" [1 lecture]. Audio, video, and transcript from Professor Hammer's class at Yale, ENGL 310: Modern Poetry, Spring, 2007.

Hayman, Ronald. "Drama That Stays Indoors: A Note on Carlos Williams." Poetry Nation 5 (1975).

Johnson, Bob. "'A Whole Synthesis of His Time': Political Ideology and Cultural Politics in the Writings of William Carlos Williams, 1929-1939" [Great Depression]. First page of article only. American Quarterly 54 (June 2002).

Mariani, Paul. A review of William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked. Reviewed by Gilbert Sorrentino, NYTimes, 11/22/81.

Perloff, Marjorie. The Dance of Intellect: Studies in the Poetry of the Pound Tradition (Northwestern UP 1985). Professor Perloff's web site.


William Carlos Williams Review

The William Carlos Williams Review currently (as of Dec. 2011) permits open access to articles in the Spring 2006 edition.

Articles from the William Carlos Williams Review, formerly open access, that have been taken offline:

Bertonneau, Thomas F. "The Sign of Knowledge in Our Time: Violence, Man and Language in Paterson, Book I (An Anthropoetics)." Bertonneau contends that Williams in Paterson and later works embraced humanism, identifying himself as the bearer of a moral obligation to speak for the universality of the human in an historical moment. William Carolos Williams Review 21, 1 (1995).

Caws, Mary Ann. Caws discusses similarities between Williams and the surrealist poet Rene Char and their liking for each other. "Williams and Rene Char: Two Poets Injured in the Street." Special edition of the William Carolos Williams Review devoted to Williams and Surrealism, 22 (1996).

Diggory, Terence. "William Carlos Williams's Early References to Freud: 1917-1930." An overview of Williams's complicated relation to Freudian thought. William Carolos Williams Review 22, 2 (1996).

Dolin, Sharon. "'Bitter and Delicious Relations': The Transitional Object in Williams's Poetry." Dolin presents a reading of Williams's poems as transitional objects. "For Williams, writing poems was one way of achieving this union of the masculine and the feminine and of acknowledging the fusion and separation of self from parent." William Carolos Williams Review 22, 2 (1996).

Eby, Carl. "'The Ogre' and the 'Beautiful Thing': Voyeurism, Exhibitionism, and the Image of 'Woman' in the Poetry of William Carlos Williams." William Carolos Williams Review 22, 2 (1996).

Fisher-Wirth, Ann. "The Allocations of Desire: 'This is Just to Say' and Flossie Williams's 'Reply.'" Fisher-Wirth contends that a gendered view of the dynamics of sexual transgression infuses these two poems. William Carolos Williams Review 22, 2 (1996).

Ford, Charles Henri. Article on Williams and surrealism by American Surrealist Charles Henri Ford, editor of Blues and View, to both of which Williams was a regular contributor. William Carolos Williams Review 22, 1 (1996).

Fredman, Stephen. A review of Fredman's The Grounding of American Poetry: Charles Olson and the Emersonian Tradition, (1993). Reviewed by Richard Frye in William Carolos Williams Review 21, 1 (1995).

Levine, Jessica. "Spatial Rhythm and Poetic Invention in William Carlos Williams's 'Sunday in the Park.'" Levine begins with Williams's line "Without invention nothing is well spaced," to examine the meaning of "well spaced" for Williams. William Carolos Williams Review 21, 1 (1995).

MacGowan, Christopher. "'Sparkles of Understanding': Williams and Nicolas Calas." MacGowan considers the conjunction of interests between Williams and one-time surrealist Nicolas Calas. William Carolos Williams Review 22, 1 (1996).

Miller, Tyrus. "Poetic Contagion: Surrealism and Williams's A Novelette. " Miller discusses Williams's improvisatory techniques in A Novelette in relationship to surrealism, focusing on shared metaphors of epidemic and contagion. From a special edition of the William Carolos Williams Review 22, 1 (1996).

Palattella, John. "But If It Ends The Start is Begun: Spring and All, Americanism, and Postwar Apocalypse." Palattella looks at Spring and All as a response to T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. William Carolos Williams Review 21, 1 (1995).

Peterson, Jeffrey. "'A Laboratory...for Dissociations': Approaching Williams's Automatic Writing." Contending that the Williams poems that have attained canonic status represent his tamer impulses, Peterson examines some of Williams's unfamiliar improvisational work. William Carolos Williams Review 22, 1 (1996).

Sayre, H. "The Enchained Dragon: Williams and the Optical Unconscious." Sayre uses Lacanian theory to illuminate Williams, "'the 'optical unconscious' is by no means easy to understand, but it is an idea worth developing in terms of Williams’s own poetic practice because it defines, precisely, the Surrealist concern with the invisible, that which resides outside opticality in a terrain that would appear to be accessible, particularly, through words." William Carolos Williams Review 22, 1 (1996).

Tashjian, Dickran. "Williams and Automatic Writing: Against the Presence of Surrealism." Tashjian analyzes Williams's ambivalent attitudes towards European surrealism. William Carolos Williams Review 22, 1 (1996).


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