Sunday, September 11, 2011

William Carlos Williams

Sept. 17, 1883- March 4, 1963 (1)

Rutherford, New Jersey (1)

Writer (Poet, critic), Doctor (2)


What’s this person best known for during the 1930s?:
Williams is best known for his imagist, working class centered poetry that uniquely incorporated poetry as an object and the leftist transition to making poetry his own social tool to navigate the political stage(2). Essentially, he was the imagist poet to describe the image and go beyond the image by adding political splashes to the context (3).


Race and Class:
Working Class White American

It could be seen not only through Williams' actions, but also his writings that he was too leftist (pushing for MORE reform) to be an FDR liberal, but he was too skeptical and anti-communism to be an extreme leftist (fascism and communism) (2). Therefore, he was an independent leftist, stating his opinions openly and frequently.
A part of his political game as a writer did include his strategy and passion to be published in every leftist magazine of status because that was what most people of the time were reading (2).
Beliefs about relation between art and politics (if applicable):
Art is impressionable. In the early 1930s (1931), Williams believed poetry was the art standing alone as is, an absolute "object." As the 30s went on, he saw poetry (the art) as a social tool to communicate and relate ideas to the people, the working class, and therefore influence them directly with his crafted art of newly incorporated leftist ideas (2).
Major Activities in the 1930s:
-Williams attended, for two year, the political conference of the American Writers Congress, where other artists of words could unite and actively pursue the political scene. He submerged himself in a merging of poetry and politics for the working class.
-He wrote and feuded with leftist magazines that asked of his opinions expecting a Communist leaning response (2).
-Williams wrote an abundance of poetry trying and succeeding in combining imagism with the a call to action (reform) or shedding light on plights for the working class (3)
-He advocated for the depression and Spanish Civil War people (2)
-Medical practice (delivering over 4000 babies, making house calls) (2)
-Writing to be published in any noteworthy leftist magazine, just to be out there with fellow writers of the 30s.
-1933-34: Co-editor of Blast magazine (1)

Major Works (include dates and place of publication where applicable):
-Collected Poems, 1929-1931, Objectivist Press
-An Early Martyr & Other Poems, 1935, New York: The Alcestis Press
  • "Proletarian Portrait"
  • "The Yachts"
  • "To a Poor Old Woman"
-Adam and Eve & the City- 1936
-Poetry/Book Reviews in the Partisan Review, Poetry and New Masses
  • The New Poetical Economy, July 1934, Poetry
  • An American Poet, Nov. 23, 1937, New Masses
  • A Twentieth Century American Poet, January 1936
Places where figure’s work often appears:
-Poetry magazine
-New Masses magazine
-The Partisan Review magazine
- published books or poems in a newspaper or book

Organizations he belongs to, causes he supports:
1. American Writers Congress (1935 and 1937) (2)
2. League of American Writers (2)
3. Started and joined his own committee named Bergen County Medical Board to Aid the Spanish Democracy (4)
4. Committee of Cultural Freedom (2)
The working class depression suffering: need reform
Cause for poetry to be bold, to have a voice of locality (3)

Best sound bites by or about this figure, including source: "When a man makes a poem, makes it, mind you, he takes words as he finds them interrelated and composes them-- without distortion which would mar their exact significances--into an intense expression of his perceptions and ardors that they may constitute a revelation in speech that he uses. It isn't what he says that counts as a work of art, it's what he makes, with such intensity of perception that it lives with an intrinsic movement of its own to verify its authenticity..." - William Carlos Williams, Collected Poems 1921-1931 Objectivist Press, published 1934
Was this person a popular or critical success?
He was claimed a critical success as the poet of the working class, using simple style (4) and one of the last greats to use innovation of fusing poetry as an object and as a tool to influence and impact an audience (2). He was "critically ignored" for years in the 30s due to "overshadowing" by T.S. Eliot and other already established poets of the time (2).
Any Gossip?
 According to Milton Cohen's published work on Williams in the 30s,Williams was known to intentionally start up controversy and rivalry between the two biggest leftist magazines, The Partisan Review and New Masses. Being a leftist himself, he was staunchly against communism and always went against the grain of leftist support when being published in such magazines to the point that the Partisan Review publicly denounced him. He did not give the writing that was expected just to draw attention to himself and get published (2).
Fun Facts to Know and Tell:

Williams quit the the Committee of Cultural Freedom after two months because he believed it to solely be a group to take down the League of Writers, not to  actually support cultural freedom as the name suggested (2).

Titles of the 1-3 “texts” (writing, photos, songs, etc.) by this person you’ll discuss in your paper (include date and place of publication, if applicable):

1. "Proletarian Portrait" (poem)

2. "An American Poet" (critique/review)

3.  "The Yachts" ( poem)

What primary research have you done?I have comprehensively researched the TCU databases of NY Times (Historical) and Academic Search Complete to find opinions and reviews on Williams actually published in the 30s. These articles give first hand of what the image of Williams was in the 30s because they are not papers written from present day. I have also, to incorporate a complete search, used a peer-reviewed published paper offering insight to Williams only in the 1930s. I have read several poems and critiques Williams did, and I have been narrowly finding what showcases his importance in the 30s the best. 

Major influences:
-Marcel Duchamp - French Artist (2)
-"In the American Grain"- a history book (2)
-Ezra Pound - Poet
-Letters of correspondence with Kenneth Burke about what poetry should do

Connections with other parlor figures:
a.  friends, people who work together, people in the same circle:
Both Williams and Ernest Hemingway got a start under a famous poet of the 30s, Ezra Pund, who created a circle/freeway where British ans American writers could share their works.
b.  political or artistic allies: Being politically active as writer in the 30s, several conferences and the League was formed. Those that attended and participated with Williams included Malcolm Cowley and Langston Hughes. However, Williams was NOT a Communist as Huges very well was.
As artists, Williams and Woody Guthrie wrote poems/songs to convey the need for at least some level of reform or act as a voice for the working class (the common everyday man).
c.  political or artistic opponents: Any Communist Party active figure, including Hughes and Diego Rivera.
Works Cited:

1. “William Carlos Williams.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 26 August 2011. Wikimedia Foundation. 9 Sep. 2011 <>.
2. Cohen, Milton A. "Stumbling into Crossfire: William Carlos Williams, "Partisan Review," and the Left in the 1930s." Journal of Modern Literature 32.2 (2009): 143-158. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 9 Sept. 2011
3. Poore, C. G. "The Poetry of William Carlos Williams." New York Times (1923-Current file): BR2. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007). Feb 18 1934. Web. 9 Sep. 2011 <>.
4. Walton, Eda L. "New Poems by William Carlos Williams." New York Times (1923-Current file): BR3. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007). Nov 15 1936. Web. 9 Sep. 2011 <>.

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