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William Carlos Williams

About William Carlos Williams

Known for minimalist poetry, William Carlos Williams was not only one of the greatest Modernist and Imagist poets, he was also Passaic General Hospital’s chief of pediatrics, which strongly influenced his poetry. In fact, all of his poems are based upon his own life experiences.

According to Williams, his most well-known poem, The Red Wheelbarrow from his 1923 collection Spring and All,
“sprang from affection for an old Negro named Marshall. He had been a fisherman, caught porgies off Gloucester. He used to tell me how he had to work in the hold in freezing weather, standing ankle deep in cracked ice packing down the fish. He said he didn’t feel cold. He never felt cold in his life until just recently. I liked that man, and his son Milton almost as much. In his back yard I saw the red wheelbarrow surrounded by the white chickens. I suppose my affection for the old man somehow got into the writing.”

His greatest inspirations were John Keats, Walt Whitman, and his friend and fellow modernist poet Ezra Pound. Williams' second series, The Tempers, was published with the help of him. He was also great friends with Helda Doolitle (H.D.), whom worked with him and Pound to start the imagist movement.

Meanwhile, the poet he did not have excellent terms with was T.S. Eliot, whom he believed to be his rival. Eliot’s release of The Wasteland threatened Williams' definition of modernist poetry, but at the same time, influenced his collection Spring and All greatly.

Williams himself was a great inspiration to Allen Ginsberg, whom he wrote an introduction for in Ginsberg’s famous Howl and Other Poems.