Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts, Literature, Poetry

Pure Products of America Go Crazy

(First summer comes, and he’s the only one I ever feel like reading—)


“The greatest work of the twentieth century will be that of those who are placing literature on a plane superior to philosophy and science. Present day despairs of life are bred of the past triumphs of these latter. Literature will lay truth open upon a higher level. If I can have a part in that enterprise, I shall be extremely contented. It will be an objective synthesis of chosen words to replace the common dilatoriness with stupid verities with which everyone is familiar. Reading will become an art also. Living in a backward country, as all which are products of the scientific and philosophic centuries must be, I am satisfied, since I prefer not to starve, to live by the practice of medicine, which combines the best features of both science and philosophy with that imponderable and enlightening element, disease, unknown in its normality to either. But, like Pasteur, when he was young, or anyone else who has something to do, I wish I had more money for my literary experiments.”

William Carlos Williams, c. 1931


If you share an affinity for Williams’ four-diver white prose under the summer sun (“So I come again to my present day gyrations”), you’ll find him (or discussions of his work) here:

Paterson, Book V: The River of Heaven, in The Open Door: One Hundred Poems, One Hundred Years of Poetry Magazine, edited by Don Share and Christian Wiman

“Projective Verse” and “The Practice” in The Poet’s Work: 29 Poets on the Origins and Practice of Their Art, edited by Reginald Gibbons

“The Breughel Museum of William Carlos Williams,” discussed in Museum of Words: The Poetics of Ekphrasis from Homer to Ashbery, by James A. W. Heffernan

“The Beast in Pain: Abjection and Aggression in Archilochus and William Carlos Williams,” discussed in The Animal Part: Human and Other Animals in the Poetic Imagination, by Mark Payne