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"Something Urgent I Have to Say to You": The Life and Works of William Carlos Williams
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"Something Urgent I Have to Say to You": The Life and Works of William Carlos Williams

2.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  26 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
Herbert Leibowitz's "Something Urgent I Have to Say to You" provides a new perspective on the life and poetry of the doctor poet William Carlos Williams, a key American writer who led one of the more eventful literary lives of the twentieth century. Friends with most of the contemporary innovators of his era-Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Ford Madox Ford, and Louis Zukofsky, amo ...more
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published November 8th 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published October 25th 2011)
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James Murphy
May 12, 2012 James Murphy rated it really liked it
Leibowitz's opening comments about how the biographer should conduct his inquiry is fascinating. A writer's life, he says, is always reflected in the work. For that reason the biography of a writer necessitates an analysis of the work in order to fully understand it and the artist and their relation to each other. He thinks any biography other than a critical one wouldn't be complete. For that reason he writes extensively here abut Williams' work, especially the poetry, and about what it has to ...more
Laura Cowan
Mar 30, 2013 Laura Cowan rated it really liked it
This book is heavily about the life and influences of William Carlos Williams, and only gives a survey of his various periods of work, but it is a great book for those people interested in the poet's life and want to learn about the development of his style. I mostly wanted to read the poems, which I was able to do in one sitting, and I think I will purchase a book that is largely his poetry alone because I'm interested in mostly learning about him through the work itself, but a great book for t ...more
Jeff Buddle
Apr 10, 2014 Jeff Buddle rated it really liked it
Leibowitz's contention is that a writer should be seen through his work. As a result, this bio gives a close reading to WCWs writing, ferreting out autobiographical details about the good doctor's love life, extra-marital affairs, medical practice, friendships, views on art and literature. Leibowitz is a careful and meticulous reader, breaking open more obscure lines to reveal kernels that I simply wouldn't have found on my own.

We don't dwell much on "The Red Wheelbarrow" or "Something I Have to
...more
Ed Smith
Jan 09, 2012 Ed Smith rated it really liked it
What a great biography! I remember buying Paul Mariani's WCW: A New World Naked
biography back in 1981. Recently, I was in New York for Italian-American writers
day at Poets House, NYC, Columbus Day celebrations & I saw him read his own poems.

This one is more detailed. Yes, and more about his Williams
sexual acts outside of his marriage with Flossie.

But it is a thoughtful and well written biography. Highly recommended for Williams scholars
and lovers of modern poetics. That includes me.
Daniel Klawitter
Jul 25, 2014 Daniel Klawitter rated it liked it
An uneven read. There are large sections of this book that spend an inordinate amount of time and ink on William's relationship with his wife...much of which doesn't seem to merit the weight of such focus.

I would have preferred more space on William's poetics, his place in modernism as a poet, etc. The sections that touch on Williams scorn and jealousy toward T.S. Eliot, his long and complicated relationship to Ezra Pound...all of these sections are interesting, but not fully explored.

The anal
...more
Jeff
Herbert Leibowitz, the editor for forty years of the rebarbative Parnassus, a literary annual, takes very seriously the stylistic cachets of the post-war American poet-critics, Randall Jarrell and Robert Lowell most distinction-observing among them. He needs these critics to bounce off of; his gift is not for interpretation. His critical resources are sensibility and ethos. William Carlos Williams' poem, "To Elsie," is a "near-perfect poem." (Nor does he elaborate.) George Oppen's style is "arid ...more
Richard Cytowic
Jan 11, 2012 Richard Cytowic rated it liked it
A book to curl up with and slow down time. There are other scholarly bios on the poet that well versed readers might prefer, but for those who know the poetry but not the man, this is a nice read. Historical details in Rutherford NJ and New York between 1880-1920 were new to me.
Michael
Apr 01, 2013 Michael rated it it was ok
I didn’t like this book very much. The whole first 1/2 - 3/4’s of the books seems to only be able to look at Williams poetry through the lens of his infidelities. While I did learn much more about Williams than I had known before - I thought that even the parts that was not focused on the infidelities - did not flow well. There are some good and interesting insights on Williams poetry and life - but I felt that the book did not work for me. And I don’t think I’d recommend it to others. I am glad ...more
Lauren Albert
This is very much, as the subtitle says, about the "life AND works." But Leibowitz spends a bit too much time analyzing poems (for me, anyway). When, at the end, after Williams has been rendered blind by multiple strokes, Leibowitz notes that Floss read to him and that throughout their marriage they had read to each other, my first thought was "why is this the first I'm hearing of it?" It seemed an important fact to know about an often-tense marriage.

I felt the book got stronger in the second ha
...more
Glenn Harris
Mar 02, 2012 Glenn Harris rated it it was ok
I'm pretty sure this is the first biography I've failed to finish. Leibowitz takes a very unusual approach, essentially explicating Williams' life relying almost exclusively on the poetry itself. Which means lots and lots of explication of the poetry. Too much like some of my college classes. I didn't enjoy it.
Laura
Feb 05, 2012 Laura rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up-on
Gave up on this book after 100 pages. Disappointing. Felt that the author was taking the opportunity to impress me with what he knew about poetry in the early 20th century rather than focusing on William Carlos's life and poetry...He had hardly touched on Williams' own life by page 100, and I got discouraged.
Duff
Mar 22, 2012 Duff rated it it was ok
Interesting approach in using the poetry and transitions in Williams life to build the biography. Not ultimately successful for me. I did learn about the background for many of the poems that I knew...but, often it was too much or seemingly wide speculation. Wavered between 2 and 3 on this one.
Jennifer
Nov 02, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it
How strange that a biographer doesn't seem to enjoy his subject's work? This divided interest in the life and art of Williams made Leibowitz's chronicle uneven at best, but ultimately a fine and thorough work of scholarship.
Jonathan Walz
Sep 12, 2015 Jonathan Walz rated it liked it
I learned a lot.
Paul
Apr 29, 2013 Paul rated it did not like it
...suffocating...
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