William Carlos Williams

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William Carlos Williams (September 17, 1883 – March 4, 1963) was an American poet closely associated with modernism and Imagism. He was also a pediatrician and general practitioner of medicine, having graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. Williams "worked harder at being a writer than he did at being a physician"; but during his long lifetime, Williams excelled at both.[1]



Early years

Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey to an English father and a Puerto Rican mother. He received his primary and secondary education in Rutherford until 1897, when he was sent for two years to a school near Geneva and to the Lycée Condorcet in Paris. He attended the Horace Mann High School upon his return to New York City and after having passed a special examination, he was admitted in 1902 to the medical school of the University of Pennsylvania.[2]


Williams married Florence Herman (1891–1976) in 1912, after his first proposal to her older sister was refused.[3] They moved into a house in Rutherford, New Jersey, which was their home for many years. Shortly afterward, his first book of serious poems, The Tempers, was published. On a trip to Europe in 1924, Williams spent time with writers Ezra Pound and James Joyce. Florence and Williams' sons stayed behind in Europe to experience living abroad for a year as Williams and his brother had in their youth.


Although his primary occupation was as a doctor, Williams had a full literary career. His work consists of short stories, poems, plays, novels, critical essays, an autobiography, translations and correspondence. He wrote at night and spent weekends in New York City with friends—writers and artists like the avant-garde painters Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia and the poets Wallace Stevens and Marianne Moore. He became involved in the Imagist movement but soon he began to develop opinions that differed from those of his poetic peers, Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot. Later in his life, Williams toured the United States giving poetry readings and lectures.

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