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William Carlos Williams

Department of English and Comparative Literature

EN304 20th Century American Literature

William Carlos Williams

Please prepare the following poems, from William Carlos Williams, Collected Poems, Vol.1, ed. A. Walton Litz and Christopher McGowan (London: Paladin, 1991):

‘The Young Housewife’(1916) p.57

‘Portrait of a Lady’ (1920) p.129

‘Overture to a Dance of Locomotives’ (1921), p.146-7

‘The Great Figure’ (1921) p.174

From Spring and All (1923)

‘By the road to the contagious hospital’ (‘Spring and All’), p.183

‘The rose is obsolete…’ p.195

‘Of death ‘, p.212-3

‘Our orchestra’, p.216

‘The pure products of America…’ (‘To Elsie’) p.217

‘So much depends’ (‘The Red Wheelbarrow’) p.224

‘Somebody dies…’ p.231

‘The crowd at the ballgame…’p.233

‘Black eyed susan…’ p.236

‘New England’ (1923) p.249

'Paterson' (1927) p.263

‘Young Sycamore’ (1927), p.266

‘The Attic Which is Desire:’ (1930), p.325-6

‘This is Just to Say’ (1934) p.372

‘To a Poor old Woman’ (1935), p.383

‘Proletarian Portrait’ (1935), p. 384-5

‘Classic Scene’ (1937), p.444-5



Primary Text


William Carlos Williams, Collected Poems Vol.1 1909-1939, eds A Walton Litz and Christopher McGowan (Manchester: Carcanet, 2000)

Selected Secondary Reading

Axelrod, Steven Gould and Helen Deese (eds). Critical Essays on William Carlos Williams (N.Y.: G.K. Hall, 1995)

Bloom, Harold (ed). William Carlos Williams (NY: Chelsea House, 1986)

Djikstra, Bram. Cubism, Stieglitz and the early Poetry of William Carlos Williams (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1978)

Gelpi, Albert. A Coherent Splendor: The American Poetic Renaissance 1910-1950 (Cambridge: CUP, 1988). Deals with sexuality and gender.

Larrissy, Edward. Reading Twentieth-Century Poetry: The Language of Gender and Objects (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990). Ch.4.

Miller, J. Hillis. Poets of Reality: Six Twentieth Century Writers (London: Oxford UP, 1966)

Tashjian, Dickran. William Carlos Williams and the American Scene, 1920-1940 (Berkeley: U California P, 1978)


Some quotations from Spring and All

‘There is a constant barrier between the reader and his consciousness of immediate contact with the world’

‘this moment is the only thing in which I am at all interested

‘nearly all writing, up to the present, if not all art, has been especially designed to keep up the barrier between sense and the vaporous fringe which distracts the attention from its agonized approaches to the moment. It has been always a search for the ‘beautiful illusion’. Very well. I am not in search of the ‘beautiful illusion’.’

‘The word must be put down for itself, not as a symbol of nature but a part, cognizant of the whole – aware - civilized’

‘The only realism in art is of the imagination’

‘the imagination is an actual force comparable to electricity or steam’

‘Poetry has to do with the dynamization of emotion into a separate form'

Online resources:

Modern American Poetry:

William Carlos Williams and the Visual Arts:

 Allan Ginsberg on William Carlos Williams: follow the right hand link at the following webpage:

or go directly to:

Check out the  two websites mentioned at the bottom of this page!


Please read Gail McDonald's "Making It New 1: Literary Modernism"


I append lecture notes on Modern American Poetry, not specifically Williams, that might help to contextualise his work a little bit.



"The Swing" by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Penn Sound has MP3 recordings of Williams reading some of his own work, often with commentary.  Well worth listening to.