SPEAKING STRAIGHT AHEAD: Interviews with William Carlos Williams by Linda Welshimer--Ed. Wagner

SPEAKING STRAIGHT AHEAD: Interviews with William Carlos Williams

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William Carlos Williams, who died in 1963, is remembered as a charitable doctor of Rutherford, New Jersey, a humble man, and the pre-eminent poet of the American language. The interviews, dialogues, and short prose comments collected here from publications of Williams' later years (several extracted from longer works) nicely exhibit the interplay of these reputations: the doctor spurns wealth, the man converses deferentially and is wide-eyed with wonder at life, and the poet states his wish ""to bring poetry out of the clouds and down to earth"" in a ""language modified by our environment; the American environment."" Characteristically, Williams affirms his innovative place in literature with both aesthetics and sentiment. Believing ""the beat of the American idiom"" to be indispensable to modern poetry because it uniquely expresses the pace and vitality of modern life, he reproaches his friend Ezra Pound and the artistic ""conformist"" T. S. Eliot for embracing foreign traditions, while admitting that his own attachment to America is heartily emotional: ""Imagine giving up America--gosh!"" But Williams was no mere innocent either, and if this collection revises his reputation at all it will be through the hints of ambivalences (missing in his autobiography) behind his affirmations. In his public voice, Williams praises the poet as the ""happiest of men,"" and yet in another, more intimate voice he confesses: ""By writing I rescue myself under all sorts of conditions"" from ""my sorrows and distresses."" This compendium is the most convenient short course available in Williams' unaffected ideas about art and life.

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 1976
Publisher: New Directions