The Red Wheelbarrow & Other Poems
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About the Author
William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) was an American poet and physician. Born in Rutherford, New Jersey to an English father and a Puerto Rican mother, Williams was raised in a bilingual family and spoke mostly Spanish at home. In 1902, he enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania's medical school, graduating in 1906 before moving to Leipzig to study pediatrics. In 1909, he self-published Poems in Rutherford, marking a humble start to a distinguished career in literature. In 1912, he married Florence Herman and settled in Paterson, New Jersey, where he established himself as a successful family doctor. With the help of Ezra Pound, Williams published The Tempers (1913) in London and became involved with the Imagists, a short-lived literary movement centered on Pound and H. D. In 1923, he published Spring and All, a hybrid book of prose and free verse poems grounded in observations from daily life. Overshadowed by the work of T. S. Eliot, Williams nevertheless became the figurehead of an experimental American modernism that would flower in his five-book epic poem Paterson, published between 1946 and 1958. In addition to his poetry, which he pursued alongside a decades-long career in medicine, Williams gained a reputation as an autobiographer, essayist, and theorist whose interests ranged from the nature of poetic language to the narrative of American history. He served as a mentor to generations of poets, influencing directly and indirectly the artists of the Beat movement, the San Francisco Renaissance, the Black Mountain school, and the New York School. Pictures from Breughel and Other Poems (1962), his final work, earned Williams a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1963.
Possibly no modern American poem is more widely known than Williams's 'The Red Wheelbarrow, ' that tiny epiphany. Williams himself, not given to making high claims for his own work, considered this poem 'quite perfect.' If you look at the lingua franca of American poetry today--a colloquial free verse focused on visual description and meaningful anecdote--it seems clear that Williams is the twentieth-century poet who has done most to influence our very conception of what poetry should do, and how much it does not need to do.--Adam Kirsch
He had a thirst for now. And he had his own beat, 'a certain unquenchable exaltation' as he said of his renowned wheelbarrow. The excitement the writing exuded is as contagious today as when he made his rounds 'quickened by the life about him.' The reader is induced to stay awake. Make contact. Look ahead.--C. D. Wright
Williams is the author of the most vivid poems of modern American poetry.--Octavio Paz