William Carlos Williams Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

A first-generation American, William Carlos Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, on September 17, 1883. His father, William George Williams, of English ancestry, had been born in England and raised in the West Indies. His mother, Raquel Hélène Rose Hoheb Williams, whose ancestry contained elements of French, Spanish, and Jewish cultures, had been born in Puerto Rico.

With his younger brother, Edward, Williams went to public schools in his hometown. When he was fourteen, he went with his family to Europe for two years, where he attended school first near Geneva, Switzerland, and later in Paris. When his family returned to the United States, he was sent to Horace Mann High School in New York City. He commuted daily from Rutherford by streetcar and Hudson River ferryboat. Williams entered medical school at the University of Pennsylvania in 1902. While there, because of his interest in poetry, he met the poets Ezra Pound and H. D. (Hilda Doolittle) and the painter Charles Demuth, all of whom became his lifelong friends.

After his graduation from medical school in 1906, Williams interned at the old French Hospital and the Nursery and Child’s Hospital in New York City. His first volume of poetry, Poems, published at his own expense, appeared in 1909. That same year he went to Europe again, where he did postgraduate work in pediatrics in Leipzig, Germany. While in Europe he renewed his friendship with Ezra Pound, and through him was introduced to many writers and artists of prewar London.

After brief trips to Italy and Spain, Williams returned to Rutherford in 1910 to begin the practice of medicine. In 1911, he married Florence Herman, the “Flossie” of his poems. During the next few years, Williams became the father of two boys, William and Paul. In 1913 he bought the house at 9 Ridge Road in Rutherford which would be his residence for the rest of his life. His second volume of verse, The Tempers, was published in England that same year. Williams was a very active pediatrician with a wide practice among the industrial workers of northeastern New Jersey. Nevertheless, he continued to be a deeply committed poet and literary man eagerly involved in the artistic life, publishing ventures, and general creative climate of Greenwich Village in the years of World War I and after.

During the 1940’s, Williams contributed to numerous magazines, including The Glebe, Poetry, Others (of which he was associate editor for a time), The Little Review, The Dial, and Broom. He became acquainted with Walter Arensberg, Kenneth Burke, Marsden Hartley, Alfred Kreymborg, Marianne Moore, Charles Sheeler, and other poets and painters. Williams published his third collection of poems, Al Que Quiere!, in 1917 and Kora in Hell: Improvisations, an experimental collection of poetry and prose, in...

(The entire section is 1189 words.)

William Carlos Williams Biography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

For most of his life Williams waged war against reductiveness—the tendency of human beings to mistake the part for the whole or the explanation for the reality. He wrote lyric poems, an epic, short stories, novels, essays, a remarkable volume of American history, and an autobiography, consciously reshaping these literary forms in the hope of engaging readers more directly and fully with experience. The cultural impact of Williams’s achievements was registered slowly, but his influence on major poets of the succeeding generation has been pivotal, and a sense of the importance of his example continues to increase.

William Carlos Williams Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

After attending public schools in New Jersey, spending time in Europe, and then finishing high school in New York, William Carlos Williams enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s Medical School in 1902. While completing his M.D. there, he met Ezra Pound, Hilda Doolittle, and the painter Charles Demuth. In 1910, he began work as a general practitioner in Rutherford, New Jersey; in addition to this practice, from 1925 on he became a pediatrician at Passaic General Hospital. Williams held these positions until several strokes forced him to retire in 1951. His medical and literary careers always coexisted. In 1909, he had his first volume, Poems, privately published. As his reputation grew, he traveled to Europe several times and encountered such writers as James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and Ford Madox Ford. He married Florence Herman in 1912, and they had two sons. Williams died on March 4, 1963, in his beloved Rutherford.

William Carlos Williams Biography

(Poets and Poetry in America)

William Carlos Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, on September 17, 1883. His father (William George Williams) was an Englishman who never gave up his British citizenship, and his mother (Raquel Hélène Rose Hoheb, known as Elena) was a Puerto Rican of Basque, Dutch, Spanish, and Jewish descent. His father was an Episcopalian who turned Unitarian and his mother was Roman Catholic. Williams was educated at schools in New York City and briefly in Europe and graduated with a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1909. After an internship in New York City and graduate study in pediatrics in Leipzig, he returned to his native Rutherford, where he practiced medicine until he retired. He proposed to Florence “Floss” Herman in 1909 and they were married in 1912. Their first son, William Eric Williams, was born in 1914 and their second, Paul Herman Williams, in 1916.

Williams, a melting pot in himself, had deep roots as a second-generation citizen of the United States. From early in his life he felt that the United States was his only home and that he must possess it in order to know himself. Possessing the America of the past and the present would enable him to renew himself continually and find his own humanity. Unlike many writers of his generation who went to Europe, such as his friend Ezra Pound, Williams committed himself to living in the United States because he believed he had to live in a place to be able to grasp it...

(The entire section is 595 words.)

William Carlos Williams Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

William Carlos Williams was a major American modernist poet to whom recognition came late in his career, and who influenced many subsequent poets in their search for a contemporary voice and form. Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, on September 17, 1883, to a mother born in Puerto Rico and an English father. Both parents figure in a number of Williams’s poems. In 1902 Williams began the study of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and while a student formed important friendships with Ezra Pound and the painter Charles Demuth. In 1910 Williams began his forty-year medical practice in Rutherford, marrying Florence Herman in 1912.

Williams’s first book of poems, entitled Poems and privately printed by a local stationer, was replete with the kind of archaic poetic diction and romantic longing typical of much American magazine poetry at the time. (In later years, Williams refused to allow the book to be reprinted.) As a result of Pound’s directive that he become more aware of avant-garde work in music, painting, prose, and poetry, Williams’s next book, The Tempers, reflected Pound’s pre-Imagist manner—a variety of verse forms, short monologues, and medieval and Latinate allusions. Williams responded with enthusiasm to the Imagist manifestos of 1912 and 1913, and much of his subsequent poetry reflects the Imagist emphasis upon concrete presentation, concision, and avoidance of conventional rhythms. Williams developed these principles in his own way, arguing that the new conditions of America itself and the primitive state of its literature demanded eschewing European literary conventions and traditions, and developing an American poetics of international standard, yet expressive of the American language and landscape. Al Que Quiere! reflects Williams’s working out of these and associated strategies, his developing an aesthetic that insists upon the ultimately creative reward of despair and destruction, and the importance of passionately engaging the object world of the native landscape with a kind of preconscious energy that breaks the conventions of perceptual habit. The 1920’s volumes Sour Grapes, Spring and All, and The Descent of Winter (the latter two works can be found in the collection Imaginations) bring these concerns to fruition.

After 1913, Williams formed friendships with a number of important writers and painters working in and around New York, including Marsden Hartley, Wallace Stevens, and Charles Sheeler. He saw his hopes for native expression confirmed by the arrival in New York of such major modernist figures as Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia at the time of World War I....

(The entire section is 1106 words.)

William Carlos Williams Biography

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

One of the best-loved, most enduring, and most American of all poets, William Carlos Williams balanced a life of aesthetic contemplation with...

(The entire section is 1120 words.)

William Carlos Williams Biography

(Poetry for Students)

Williams was born on September 17, 1883, in Rutherford, New Jersey, to William George and Raquel Helene Hoheb Williams. From 1897 to 1899, he...

(The entire section is 471 words.)