Visiting Dr. Williams: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of William Carlos Williams by Sheila Coghill, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Visiting Dr. Williams: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of William Carlos Williams

Visiting Dr. Williams: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of William Carlos Williams

by Sheila Coghill

Loved for his decidedly American voice, for his painterly rendering of modern urban settings, and for his ability to re-imagine a living language shaped by the philosophy of “no ideas but in things,” William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) left an indelible mark on modern poetry. As each successive generation of poets discovers the “new” that


Loved for his decidedly American voice, for his painterly rendering of modern urban settings, and for his ability to re-imagine a living language shaped by the philosophy of “no ideas but in things,” William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) left an indelible mark on modern poetry. As each successive generation of poets discovers the “new” that lives within his work, his durability and expansiveness make him an influential poet for the twenty-first century as well. The one hundred and two poems by one hundred and two poets collected in Visiting Dr. Williams demonstrate the range of his influence in ways that permanently echo and amplify the transcendent music of his language.
Contributors include: Robert Creeley, David Wojahn, Maxine Kumin, James Laughlin, A. R. Ammons, Wendell Berry, Heid Erdrich, Frank O’Hara, Lyn Lifshin, Denise Levertov, Wallace Stevens, John Ashbery, Allen Ginsberg, and a host of others.



Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Visiting Dr. Williams is a rich, entertaining gathering of dedications, imitations, corrections revisions, homages, and send-ups—all provoked by the poet with the famous white chickens who brought American poetry back home to roost. You cannot visit William Carlos Williams too often; remember he made house calls and would have gladly visited us.”—Billy Collins

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University of Iowa Press
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6.00(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

VISITING Dr. Williams

poems inspired by the life and work of William Carlos Williams


Copyright © 2011 University of Iowa Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-58729-986-5

Chapter One

    A. R. AMMONS


    I turned in
    by the bayshore
    and parked,
    the crosswind
    hitting me hard
    side the head,
    the bay scrappy
    and working:
    what a
    way to read
    Williams! till
    a woman came
    and turned
    her red dog loose
    to sniff
    (and piss
    the dead horseshoe


    The Carlos Poems

    They become kindred spirits
    in a land overflowing with ghosts. Kindred spirits in a dying
    sun's world.
—Adrian C. Louis

    The first visit
    Hello, William Carlos Williams, you've come
    calling, at last! Last night, that dream about

    you woke me up! We were somewhere—you said,
    "fuck it, break speed limits, blur the landscape."

    I remember looking into your mouth. Your
    ghostly teeth were glowing like the back of

    eucalyptus leaves in a thunderstorm.
    But William, how was I supposed to know

    that your middle name Carlos meant Carlos,
    like the name of some cousins? You, the most

    American of poets according
    to critics! You, amigo, who upon

    seeing the Caribbean for the first
    time "wanted to cradle it like a blue

    seashell, like any other dumb tourist...."
    You were half-Puertorriqueño? Let's take

    a walk. Let's walk past the open windows
    of undergraduates with shut eyelids.

    These poor students have tired themselves out
    listening to Belly, Morrissey, Butthole

    Surfers, Throwing Muses, Dead Kennedys.

    There's a Chicano rapper now, Kid Frost:

    no more silence for la raza (Carlos,
    that's the people),
for any one of us.

    You are one of us if only by blood.
    Look, William, you still have a shadow, your

    many words on many pages. I love
    what you asked me in the dream this morning:

    "If you must own an aquarium why not
    fill it up with expensive champagne?"

    Ah, amigo! Already the daylight
    chases you away: not yet, por favor!

    Unhatted as we are, we dare not
    walk any further towards what is

    on the next block, and the next, and the next.
    You smile at me. I make you remember

    something: hunger, youth, time, the need to need.
    Adios, goodbye, yes this is right, William

    Carlos Williams, a-dios, go back to your God.

    The second visit
    You follow me to a matinee, sit
    in the row behind me; funny, Dead Again.

    Carlito, that's Andy Garcia. I
    don't know why he is with rich, white people

    without them noticing his lovely brown
    skin, his blue-black hair, head shaped like a bell.

    He is not trying to pass as white; were you?
    You did pass as an American, as the

    North American. You did publish as an
    American, judged the Pisan Cantos

    as what an American citizen speaks.
    Andy Garcia is fistfighting with

    British Kenneth Branaugh over the soul
    —and the body that comes with it—of a

    beautiful woman. Was Pygmalion
    the inspiration for the Statue

    of Liberty? William, alive again,
    but so are young lovers here in this dark

    theater with us, feeling each other up
    as if dreaming with eyes and legs open.

    A lover (such a lovely word, lover)
    said to me: "Is that a revolution

    in your pants or are you just happy to
    see me?" See how silliness is such an

    American patent? Let's go. No, no,
    Carlos, this isn't porno. Do you

    know the term blue movie? Delicious, no?
    English, what a magician you are

    on good days. Blue movies make me think of blue
    bodies: the waving of blue feet, dancing

    blue arms, the rubbing of blue chests and breasts,
    the kissing of blue hands. It's not like that;

    it's never like that. Let us meditate
    on popcorn, the seats, shoes, rows, aisles, curtains,

    the American flag in the corner,
    ushers, spilled Good & Plentys, screen scratches,

    exit signs. Andy Garcia is fading.
    The movie is over; then, the sudden

    ordinary light of the world, our world,
    burns with meaning and power. Look at me

    talking to a ghost instead of working.
    But perhaps this is my work. What is

    poetry if it isn't the public
    memory of a night wasted singing?

    Carlos, to quote Doris Day, que será,
    será. Ser
is the verb to be. You were.

    I hope to be. How to part from you? Ah,
    mi casa es su casa which roughly

    translates as my poem is your poem.


    The Thief of Poetry

    To you
    my friend who
    was in this

    street once
    were on it

    in with it
    getting on with

    only passing by
    a smell of hamburgers
    that day

    an old mattress
    and a box spring
    as it

    filling the empty

    of a street
    in decay of time
    it fell out that

    there was no
    whether out of a wish

    to be moving on
    or frustrated
    willingness to stay

    here to stand
    the moment

    had other plans
    and now in this
    jungle of darkness

    the future still makes plans
    O ready to go
    Conceive of your plight

    more integrally
    the snow
    that day

    buried all but the most obtuse
    only the most generalized

    the low profile
    becomes a constant again
    the line of ocean

    of shore

    to rise again
    in new

    in explicit

    drowns the hum
    of space
    the false point

    of the stars
    in specific
    new way of happening

    no one remembers
    the day you walked a certain distance

    along the beach
    and then
    walked back

    it seems
    in your tracks
    because it

    was ending
    for the first time
    yes but now

    is another way of
    spreading out
    toward the end

    the linear style
    is discarded
    though this is

    not realized for centuries
    another way of living had come and gone

    leaving its width
    now the tall cedars

    had become locked into
    the plan
    so that everywhere

    you looked
    was burning

    interior space
    not for colonies
    but already closed

    turned in on itself
    its back
    as beautiful as the sea

    where you go up
    and say the word

    to yourself
    all was lived in
    had been lived in

    was coming to an end
    in the featureless present

    that was expanding to
    cloister it
    this just a little too

    comic parable
    and so insure the second

    of that day seen against the street
    of whichever way
    you walked and talked

    knowing not knowing
    the thing that was describing you
    and not knowing

    your taller
    well somehow more informed

    as you wind down
    only a second
    it did matter

    you come back so seldom
    but it's all right
    the way of staying

    you started comes back
    procession into the fire
    into the sky

    the dream you lost
    firm in its day
    reassured and remembered



    Of course you ate the plums
    she was saving for breakfast,
    you were always selfish that way,
    and on the weekends
    you happily cranked up your Model T Ford
    and drove away from the practice, the patients,
    the neighbors, your wife,
    your wheels crushing the fallen leaves.
    You drove right out of your life,
    across the bridge and into the city
    where everything exciting was,
    the women, speakeasies, the jazz clubs,
    and you ate it all up
    because you knew when you crossed the bridge
    again into the familiar streets,
    still reeking of sweet wine and smoke,
    she would be waiting to take your overcoat
    and hat, waiting with the children
    in the laundry or in the garden,
    she would be waiting to forgive you,
    because that's what she did,
    and you, you ate it all up.


    William Carlos Williams Back in Puerto Rico

    Well Jersey is still a yellow place
    May comes to with rain washing

    chickens and pots of flowers
    and New England-delicate rust

    and immaculate white beds—
    but back in old San Jaun

    it's beautiful as a baseball
    game or Spanish Jews—I have some

    of their blood too—escaping
    laughing from the Inquisition.

    Here slums are magnificent
    baroque and golden red stone,

    and what makes me happier than
    the Pleiades is the skinny rubber tree

    with big boobs and milk under
    the skin all out in my back

    yard or up in the tropical rain
    forest. There pines are friends

    and cool even to cranky old men
    named Alfredo or Carlos

    who walk with shaggy nostalgia
    like the poor ascending home

    where they listen to the radio,
    make love, and iron new clothes.



    When the pen pushes down on the pad,
    indentations form the hieroglyph believed
    by generations to be the finished product
    of a brilliant mind. What they don't see
    are the half-uttered words clipped short,
    scratched out and begun again, over and
    over. What they don't smell is the oil
    leaking from the car that has stopped at
    that stop light just long enough to note
    that "so much depends." So much depends
    upon a moment, a chance encounter, a
    phrase or the way Flossie's plums would
    have tasted if only he had arrived in time
    to take one from the bowl to his lips,
    those same lips that utter the words scrawled
    across a pad in the morning, typed and
    retyped in the evening. Notice
    the trace of a hand that existed once.
    Follow where it leads.


Excerpted from VISITING Dr. Williams Copyright © 2011 by University of Iowa Press. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF IOWA PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

 Sheila Coghillis professor of English and chair of the department at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Poet Thom Tammarois professor of English and directs the MFA program at Minnesota State University Moorhead.Together they are the editors of Visiting Emily (Iowa, 2000, winner of the 2001 Minnesota Book Award), Visiting Walt (Iowa, 2003), and Visiting Frost (Iowa, 2005).

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