The Poetic World of William Carlos Williams

The Poetic World of William Carlos Williams

The Poetic World of William Carlos Williams

The Poetic World of William Carlos Williams

Excerpt

Until the last few years of his life William Carlos Williams was almost entirely neglected by the literary critics. Not only the academic critics, but the "little magazine" critics, too, acted, for the most part, as if he did not exist. Some few made passing references to him, and even fewer took him seriously; none wrote of him as a major figure of their time. Only after Paterson had forced their attentions did they begin to read Williams with much sympathy or any attention to detail. But by then the older attitudes had had their effect, and Williams' poems had been grown over with so much literary moss that one was hard put to find the real poem behind the misconceptions: such catchwords as antipoetic and free verse, regionalist and primitive bad become firmly attached to the poems.

The young poets bad all the while been reading Williams' poems, of course, and they had not been listening to the catchwords. As a result, Williams' importance as an influence in modern poetry grew until be became, in the late fifties, perhaps the greatest single force in American poetry. And so over the last few years Williams has suddenly become popular, not only in the avant-garde circles but in the academic world, in college courses in American literature. Students find themselves attracted to his hopelessly human view of things, and teachers discover that the poems lend themselves marvelously to analysis and interpretation.

Unfortunately, the old misconceptions still persist. The trickle of critical writing about Williams has not broken with the past, except, perhaps, to attempt from time to . . .

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