William Carlos Williams

William Carlos Williams was born September 17, 1883, in Rutherford, New Jersey.  A lover of literature and medicine, Williams decided as a teenager to embark on a career both as writer and doctor, a feat uncharacteristic of most dedicated poets.  He graduated medical school from the University of Pennsylvania, where he met and befriended fellow poet Ezra Pound.  Influential in Williams’ poetry, Pound facilitated the publishing of Williams’ second book The Tempers in 1913—his first collection was published privately four years prior.  Williams set up his medical practice in 1910, married Florence Herman in 1912, and had two sons, born in 1914 and 1916.  Shortly thereafter, he followed up with his third collection in 1917.  His poetry received little notice in his early years, possibly due to popularity of contemporaries like T. S. Eliot, and for awhile, Williams decided to devote his time to novels and essays.

Living through the Great Depression, Williams employed a simple, realist approach to his writing via direct language without embellishment.  He preferred to concentrate on the experience of the common man and focused on the human condition as seen through adverse circumstance.  His medical practice served as fodder for his writing, giving the doctor a true look into the lives of struggling Americans, making his character analysis more authentic. 

Some of Williams’ more notable works include essays like In the Grain (1925); his epic five-volume poem, Paterson (1946-58); and a trilogy of novels: White Mule (1937), In the Money (1940), and The Build-Up (1952).  In 1963, Williams was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for his work Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems (1962).  He died March 4, 1963, after suffering a series of heart attacks.