William Carlos Williams was born on September
17, 1883, in Rutherford, New Jersey. His father had emigrated from Birmingham,
England, and his mother (whose mother Basque and whose father was of
Dutch-Spanish-Jewish descent) from Puerto Rico. Williams attended schools in
Rutherford until 1897, when he was sent for two years to a school near Geneva
and to the Lycée Condorcet in Paris. On his return he attended the Horace
Mann High School in New York City. After having passed a special examination,
he was admitted in 1902 to the medical school of the University of
Pennsylvania. There he met two poets, Hilda Doolittle and Ezra Pound. The
latter friendship had a permanent effect; Williams said he could divide his
life into Before Pound and After Pound.
did his internship in New York City from 1906 to 1909, writing verse in
between patients. He published a first book, Poems, in 1909. Then he
went to Peipzig in 1909 to study pediatrics, and after that retuned to
Rutherford to practice medicine there for the rest of his life. In 1912 he
married Florence Herman (or "Flossie"). In 1913 Pound secured a
London publisher for Williams' second book, The Tempers. But his first distinctly
original book was Al Que Quiere! (To Him Who Wants It!), published in
Boston in 1917. In the following years he wrote not only poems but short
stories, novels, essays, and an autobiography. In 1946 he began the
fulfillment of a long-standing plan, to write an epic poem, with the
publication of Paterson, Book I. The three following books appeared in
1948, 1949, and 1951; in 1952 he suffered a crippling stroke, which forced him
to give up his medical practice and drastically limited his ability to write.
Nonetheless he continued to so so, producing an unanticipated fifth book of Paterson
in 1958 as well as shorter poems. He died in Rutherford in March 4,
1963. Two months later his last book of lyrics won the Pulitzer prize for
Ellmann, Richard and Robert O'Clair. Modern Poems: An
Introduction to Poetry.
New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1973, p. 107.