William Carlos Williams

Early Life

William Carlos Williams was born on the 17th of September in 1883, in Rutherford, New Jersey, the U.S. He was the bright son of an English father, William George Williams, and Puerto Rican mother. He spent his early years in Rutherford with his loving family that provided him a fertile background in literature and art. His mother introduced him to painting and art, while his father exposed him to the classic works of art and literature, including Gilbert, William Shakespeare, Dante’s Inferno, and Sullivan. These early influences played a vital role in his later development as a poet and writer.


William’s formal education started at Horace Mann High School in New York City. It is at the same place he started an extensive study of poetry under the supervision of William Abbot, who exposed him to the classical works of poetry. Later, in 1902, he was admitted to the medical school of the University of Pennsylvania and graduated in 1906. After graduation, he did an internship in two hospitals and went for an advanced study in pediatrics. Although medicine was his primary occupation, yet he proved an outstanding writer, publishing his first book of poetry in 1909.


William’s services for literature and art won him various awards, including Loines Award in 1948. He won the National Book Award shortly after that, and later, in 1952, he earned Bollingen Prize, while in 1958, he won Brandeis University Creative Arts Award. He also won the American Academy Gold Medal in 1963. His other achievements include the Pulitzer Prize for Pictures for, Brueghel and Other Poems, and the Gold Medal for Poetry of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

Some Important Facts of His Life

  1. His house in Rutherford is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  2. In 2009, William Carlos Williams was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
  3. He died on the 4th of March 1963 in Rutherford, New Jersey.
  4. In 1912, upon his return from Germany, he married Florence Herman, and the couple had two sons, William E. Williams and Paul H. Williams.

His Career

William Carlos William, an iconic historical figure, started transcribing his feelings on paper at a very young age and earned much respect. Besides a good doctor, he excelled in writing, too. His first publication, Poems, appeared and warmly received in 1909. His second book, The Tempers, comprising poems hit shelves in 1913 in which Ezra Pound proved instrumental to whom he met during his stay at the University of Pennsylvania. His next collection, ‘Al Que Quiere!’ was his Puerto Rican roots versus American identity. Later, in 1925, his prolific prose work, In the American Grain, exposed American culture and character through essay writing techniques. Besides poetry, he produced novels and short stories as well. Some of his notable works are White Mule, which appeared in 1937; In the Money, appeared in 1940, and The Build-Up, appeared in 1952. Among his significant short stories were “The Farmers’ Daughters, “Jean Beicke” and “A Face of Stone.”

His Style

William remains one of the leading modernist poets; he chose to pen down his emotions and thought using a unique style; imagism. Instead of writing in straightforward and plain words, he preferred creating mental images of an event in his reader’s mind, so that the readers would decipher the underlying meanings themselves. Williams, being a doctor and man of the urban taste, reflected upon his New York experiences to create imagist poems such as his poem, “Spouts” which tells about the beautiful fountain outside of Madison Square Garden in New York City. Regarding literary devices, he often turns toward imagery, similes, metaphors, and sound devices. The recurring themes in most of his writings are ambiguity, repentance, human nature, and life.

Some Important Works of William Carlos Williams

  • Poetry: He was an outstanding writer, some of his famous poems include “The Red Wheel Barrow”, “This is Just to Say”, “Paterson”, “Raleigh was Right”, “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus”, “Peace on earth”, “Summer Song” and “Complete Destruction.”
  • Other Works: Besides writing poetry, he tried his hands on other genres of literature. Some of them include The Great American Novel, White Mule, The Selected Letters of William Carlos Williams, Life along the Passaic River, and Many Loves and Other Plays: The Collected Plays of William Carlos Williams.

William Carlos Williams’s Influence on Future Literature

William’s work brought revolutionary changes to the world of literature. His thought-provoking ideas, a deep sense of humanity, and an analytical approach inspired many writers and critics. His literary qualities and unique ways of expression helped the readers shape their opinions of the physical world they breathe in. His indifferent writing style and way of expression influenced many fellow authors such as Randall Jarrell, who later wrote that there is no optimistic blindness in Williams’s works. This is a unique tribute to William’s style.

Famous Quotes

  1. We sit and talk,
    quietly, with long lapses of silence
    and I am aware of the stream
    that has no language, coursing
    beneath the quiet heaven of
    your eyes
    which has no speech” (Paterson)
  2. “Writing is not a searching about in the daily experience for apt similes and pretty thoughts and images… It is not a conscious recording of the day’s experiences ‘freshly and with the appearance of reality’… The writer of imagination would find himself released from observing things for the purpose of writing them down later. He would be there to enjoy, to taste, to engage the free world, not a world which he carries like a bag of food, always fearful lest he drop something or someone get more than he.” (Spring and All)
  3. “I think these days when there is so little to believe in——when the old loyalties——God, country, and the hope of Heaven——aren’t very real, we are more dependent than we should be on our friends. The only thing left to believe in——someone who seems beautiful.” (Selected Essays)