Paterson is both a place--the New Jersey city in whom the person (the poet's own life) and the public (the history of the region) are combined. Originally four books (published individually between 1946 and 1951), the structure of Paterson (in Dr. Williams' words) "follows the course of teh Passaic River" from above the great falls to its entrance into the sea. The unexpected Book Five, published in 1958, affirms the triumphant life of the imagination, in spite of age and death. This revised edition has been meticulously re-edited by Christopher MacGowan, who has supplied a wealth of notes and explanatory material.


This volume completes the new editions of William Carlos Williams’ poetry begun with the Collected Poems: Volume I, 1909–1939 (1986), and Collected Poems: Volume II, 1939–1962 (1988).

When Williams’ plans for Paterson began to take final shape in the early 1940s, he conceived of the poem as having four books, although he eventually published five, and in the last years of his life even started preliminary work on a sixth. The five books of Paterson were originally published in separate volumes, in limited editions, in 1946, 1948, 1949, 1951 and 1958, and as they sold out they were reprinted, starting with Books I and II in 1949, in the publisher’s popularly priced New Classics series. For this reprint the text was entirely reset. Book III was added in 1950 and Book IV in 1951. The five books of Paterson were first published together, with the fragments of the sixth, in 1963, and this edition was itself rearranged with the fifth printing in 1969 for a reprint that reduced the total pagination by forty pages.

Throughout the printing history of the reprints, changes were made to various parts of the text, sometimes through error, sometimes apparently in response to directions by the poet, and in the case of the fifth book—for which the reprint appeared posthumously—in response to the large number of differences noticed between the poem’s transcription of its prose sources and the language of those sources themselves, many of which had become available in research collections.

In preparing this edition I have studied the known manuscripts, galleys, and page proofs of the poem, as well as its various printings, and detail the general editorial procedures guiding my decisions in Appendix B, “A Note on the Text.” I outline the principles governing the annotations at the head of Appendix C. I have provided information on the sources of the prose and some . . .

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