The Poetry of William Carlos Williams of Rutherford

The Poetry of William Carlos Williams of Rutherford

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by Wendell Berry
     
 

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Acclaimed essayist and poet Wendell Berry was born and has always lived in a “provincial” part of the country without an established literary culture. In an effort to adapt his poetry to his place of Henry County, Kentucky, Berry discovered an enduringly useful example in the work of William Carlos Williams. In Williams’ commitment to his place of… See more details below

Overview

Acclaimed essayist and poet Wendell Berry was born and has always lived in a “provincial” part of the country without an established literary culture. In an effort to adapt his poetry to his place of Henry County, Kentucky, Berry discovered an enduringly useful example in the work of William Carlos Williams. In Williams’ commitment to his place of Rutherford, New Jersey, Berry found an inspiration that inevitably influenced the direction of his own writing.

Both men would go on to establish themselves as respected American poets, and here Berry sets forth his understanding of that evolution for Williams, who in the course of his local membership and service, became a poet indispensable to us all.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Award-winning poet, essayist, and novelist Berry (Hannah Coulter) here pays homage to another great American writer, one who was an early influence on Berry's work. William Carlos Williams (1883�1963) is best known for his five-volume epic poem Paterson and for hybrid poetry-prose works such as Spring and All (1923). The phrase "of Rutherford" in the title reflects that both Berry and Williams are deeply grounded in a particular geographic location. For Berry, Rutherford is a touchstone for Williams's work. Engaging in cogent literary criticism, Berry considers typical poetic elements such as syntax, measure, and rhythm in Williams's work. He also goes beyond this approach as he casts a poet's eye on themes such as the relationship between poet and place (the means by which Williams influenced Berry), the intersection of nature and art, and artistic innovation. Williams's argument with T.S. Eliot over the future of poetry is also illuminated. VERDICT Berry's work will be of most interest to students and researchers in American modernist poetry, while practicing writers and poets may appreciate his insights into the creative process. Berry's large following may want to consider it as well.—Alison M. Lewis, Drexel Univ., Philadelphia
Kirkus Reviews

A personal and critical homage to a giant of American poetry.

William Carlos Williams (1883–1963), one of America's most respected 20th-century writers, is the author of numerous books of poetry, fiction, essay, drama and autobiography, including Spring and All (1923),Life Along the Passaic River(1938), andThe Farmers' Daughters (1961). He is recognized as one of the central figures in postwar American poetry and is often associated with Modernism and, somewhat erroneously, Imagism. The prolific Berry (Imagination in Place, 2010, etc.) also works in multiple genres, and he is perhaps as well-known for poetry and fiction as for essays on a wide range of topics, including farming and agriculture, ecological awareness, rural American culture, poetics and imagination and politics. With a sensibility that is decidedly pastoral, agrarian, even populist, it is not surprising that Berry reads Williams via a poetics of place, or what he calls "local adaptation." This is a fairly conventional reading that contrasts Williams—the "true" regional poet of rural America—with the supposedly more urban, cosmopolitan and international avant-garde writers like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. Although Berry acknowledges Williams' complexity and antipoetic tendencies, as well as his similarities to Eliot, he always returns him to a fundamentally lyrical poetics interested in the "mass of detail" and an attempt to find beauty and order in nature via poetry. This interpretation is somewhat pedestrian and situates Williams as a poet on a romantic quest for some kind of unmediated contact with nature and the objects of reality. The importance of Williams's phrase "no ideas but in things" has been persistently exaggerated by critics, and Berry uses it as a kind of springboard to argue that Williams' poetry is "culturally useful." Finally, the author's attacks on writers and critics teaching in universities—"literary industrialists"—seem misplaced.

Of interest to poetry neophytes and newcomers to Williams' work, less so to seasoned readers.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781582438672
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
02/10/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
176
Sales rank:
1,214,537
File size:
0 MB

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