News & Politics

Remembering William Carlos Williams


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March 7, 1963, Vol. VIII, No. 20

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

By Stephanie Gervis

His neighbors in Rutherford, New Jersey, remember William Carlos Williams only as a doctor, and he would have been proud of that.

Younger poets, poets at least a generation behind Williams when he died Monday morning at the age of 79, poets like Paul Blackburn, Robert Creeley, Gil Sorrentino, Joel Oppenheimer, thought of him (and his old friend Ezra Pound) as — in Blackburn’s words — “where we all start from, like, our fathers.” And he would have been equally proud of that.

Williams said himself, when he was elected to the Bergen County Medical Society:

“I am proud to have been a physician. This is my home, and whatever I have achieved stems from the conviction that in the United States we speak our own language, not just English. This is my inspiration. The American idiom is my forte, and I am proud to have been a doctor.”

He had been a doctor for forty years before he died and had published almost forty separate volumes.

“I loved the man automatically,” Gregory Corso told us, “because he had a gift and he put the gift aside and became a doctor. I think he’s great. I would have liked to have done that.”

But Julian Beck of the Living Theatre, which produced Williams’ play “Many Loves” so successfully here and in Europe, remembers Williams’ telling him that “if he had been given a choice, if he had to choose one or the other, he would have chosen to be a poet because there are many many more people who could have been doctors.”

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]


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