I Wanted to Write a Poem: The Autobiography of the Works of a Poet

I Wanted to Write a Poem: The Autobiography of the Works of a PoetI Wanted to Write a Poem: The Autobiography of the Works of a Poet
by William Carlos Williams

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Editor Edith Heal does a great job of capturing Williams’ honest reflections of his entire body of work from the beginning of his career up to the time of the interviews. Williams is open and honest and consistent on his desire to capture the American Idiom in both prose and verse.

Even more insightful are the commentaries from Florence Herman Williams, aka Flossie, the poet’s wife. An astute reader and honest voice, these interviews cement her role as the key collaborator behind all of Williams’ work.

A must read for any poet who is struggling to find the balance between working full time, fulfilling family obligations, and crafting a body of enduring work.

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¡Feliz cumpleaño, William Carlos Williams!

Rescate de Terreno
Originally uploaded by Rigglord

To celebrate the good Doctor’s birthday, Minnesota Public Radio has a great show, A man of science and letters, with clips of Wiliiams himself (thanks to the Penn Archives), poet/historian Neil Baldwin, and poet Bill Zavatsky.

It’s great to hear such a great breakdown on Williams’ work and legacy. I was especially interested on the discussion regarding pastoral since urban images are the be all and end all for me. Where someone might say, “A sip from the stream,” and I can taste the cool metallic water flowing from an open fire hydrant. Another might say, “The crowing of the dawn,” and I hear the #6 train speeding up from local to express so commuters can reach downtown faster. And if one was to try to evoke a shepherd, all I can picture is a crossing guard (maybe the kind elderly lady or the broad as a bus cold cop) guiding pedestrians and vehicles through the tight right angles of a crowded intersection. That’s the place my pastoral lives. Glad to know that the good Doctor’s pastoral is not too far from there, too.


When I was younger
it was plain to me
I must make something of myself.
Older now
I walk back streets
admiring the houses
of the very poor:
roof out of line with sides
the yards cluttered
with old chicken wire, ashes,
furniture gone wrong;
the fences and outhouses
built of barrel-staves
and parts of boxes, all,
if I am fortunate,
smeared a bluish green
that properly weathered
pleases me best
of all colors.

No one
will believe this
of vast import to the nation.

© William Carlos Williams (from Al Que Quiere!)