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William Carlos Williams: Selected Poems

4.15  ·  Rating Details ·  11,397 Ratings  ·  138 Reviews
No poetry is more fresh, more immediate, more deftly challenging, writes editor Robert Pinsky. William Carlos Williams is at the center of one of poetry's great historic flowerings. From the hard-edged experiments of Spring and All to the fluent lyricism of Asphodel, That Greeny Flower, Williams pursued an independent and often unappreciated course, creating a diverse and ...more
Hardcover, 200 pages
Published October 7th 2004 by Library of America (first published 1949)
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The Complete Stories and Poems by Edgar Allan PoeThe Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert FrostThe Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonThe Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke by Rainer Maria RilkeThe Complete Poems by John Keats
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dec 30, 2015 Jonfaith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
the faces are raised
as toward the light
there is no detail extraneous

You know, I credit Mike Puma with this turn, oh and Robert Zimmerman and maybe Ezra Pound. All these loose associations led a curious thrust into verse these last days of 2015. It might prove habit forming. There is something remarkable to wake from a deep slumber and find traction into verse. My initial encounters were ill defined. Form was found as I progressed.

Without other cost than breath
and the poor soul,
carried in the c
William Carlos Williams frustrates me. I just don't get him, and that makes me mad.

He writes stuff like this:

"so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

and I don't know what the hell he's talking about. In my poetry class we spent at least 45 minutes discussing those four stanzas and we still have no idea what the damn poem is even trying to be about.

*shakes fist at sky* WILLIAMS!

Read for: Modern Poetry
Dec 11, 2010 Melee rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This Is Just to Say

I have finished
the book
by William
Carlos Williams

and which
was edited by
a Robert

I am sorry
for it was lovely
and now
it's done
May 13, 2016 Melki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This version is 140 pages and includes an introduction by Randall Jarrell.


Your thighs are appletrees
whose blossoms touch the sky.
Which sky? The sky
where Watteau hung a lady's
slipper. Your knees
are a southern breeze -- or
a gust of snow. Agh! what
sort of man was Fragonard?
-- As if that answered
anything. -- Ah, yes. Below
the knees, since the tune
drops that way, it is
one of those white summer days,
the tall grass of your ankles
flickers upon the shore --
Which shore? --
Mar 17, 2015 Myles rated it really liked it
Poetry stripped of its wreaths and laurels, made sharp, laconic, and painful. At one point, Williams notes how the remains of a shattered cathedral window strewn out on the ground is of greater value than its original form. He is perpetually angry at a static world, complacent in its old age. So he goes out, writes, and smashes everything he sees. My kind of man.
Mar 21, 2013 Dolors rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Analysis of "Young Woman at a window"

As it happened with Ezra Pound's poem "In a Station of the Metro", which was at first a thirty lines poem reduced finally to two verses, we are confronted by two versions of the same poem by Williams. In both cases, the second versions were reduced and condensed into something clear and straightforward as an image. And that is exactly what defines the Imagism Movement, to use language employing the exact, not nearly-exact, but THE EXACT word, without
Feb 05, 2015 Kaion rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, reviewed
i dont think ill ever be a
fan of william carlos williams what kind of
dude does the

red wheelbarrow
the kind with a lastname first name the
same as his last

name anyway
he didnt only write in

adverbscostextra but also
jagged modern or
neoclassic paint

excised of canvas in his
a real formalist


"Queen Anne's Lace" (view spoiler)
From the Introduction by Randall Jarrell:

"When you have read Paterson you know for the rest of your life what it is like to be a waterfall; and what other poet has turned so many of his readers into trees?"

I like "Dedication for a Plot of Ground," a tribute to Emily Dickinson, which ends with "If you can bring nothing to this place / but your carcass, keep out."

And of course this from the beginning of "Love Song":
"I lie here thinking of you:-- / the stain of love / is upon the world!"

Not just
Jun 10, 2009 Andrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, poetry
I have known that cat (p70) and I thrill in the knowledge that you have given in to the need for plums.. (p74). I cannot resist a quiet visit with WCW every once in a while, to celebrate the simply elaborate human condition.
Shawn Sorensen
Dec 09, 2008 Shawn Sorensen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This is what poetry should be - unabashed, symbolic, conversational, creative and reflective of a view mainly outside of oneself in the sense that is has something to cause others to 'go outside', too. Stylistically, Williams is hard to beat - layers of subtle rhymes, repeats in the right places, the confidence to lay off the punctuation (except for the exclamation mark!) and very economical with word choice. The substance can be weighty, yet Williams is gracious enough to leave most interpretat ...more
Dec 16, 2009 Meg marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I've always wanted to read Williams... mostly because it cracks me up to no end--imagining his parents sitting there over their cute newborn baby, shaking their heads to each other. In my creative scenario, his dad says, "Nope... no, sir... can't think of a better name..." And the mom offers, "Aww, shucks, just go with William Williams. Nobody'll ever see the kid's name in print, anyway."

Apr 05, 2008 Rich rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Basically, if anybody wants to understand contemporary free verse in America, they should read Whitman first, and Williams second. Williams pioneered the simple, seemingly effortless looking poem that relied on vivid imagery and line breaks as organizational principals.
Aug 30, 2013 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
There is a bond between the poet and reader expressed by William Carlos Williams:

I wanted to write a poem
that you would understand.
For what good is it to me
if you can't understand it?
But you got to try hard --
from "January Morning" (XV)

Jan 21, 2013 R.a. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Simply, this is a wonderful collection. Williams’ poems are joyful, sad, mocking, serious, sensual, etc. But, most of all, they are dense.

Although not strict in form in some sense, many and most are strict in form in another sense—with regard to rhythm, meter, and imagery.

The favorites are here, too: “This is just to say,” “The Red Wheelbarrow,” etc.

Also collected here are various poems throughout his writing career; and, they are arranged that way—in chronological order, (with the exception of
Jul 14, 2013 wally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
another read i can skip this one from page 67:

to a poor old woman
munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand

they taste good to her
they taste good
to her. they taste
good to her

you can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand

a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
they taste good to her

and there's my title...or one of many...i like the one i've got though...that one...looks good, a solace of ripe plums

Oct 03, 2012 Ben rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The poems were good, more style than substance though (for me), not that that's necessarily a bad thing. I enjoy poets that speak to me, though, that move me (like Langston Hughes, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Blake, Rimbaud), and Williams didn't really move me. Williams is certainly a "vivid" poet, as Octavio Paz described him -- his verse draws clear images in my mind of the America in which he lived -- but not a deeply passionate one, like, say, Hughes or Ferlinghetti. I enjoyed his later collecti ...more
May 03, 2016 Northpapers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came to WCW through his fiction, which I found so generous, unadorned, and funny.

It took a while for me to see the same spirit in his poems. I caught it and lost it over the months I spent with "Selected Poems." This might be attributed to my lack of insight or to the absence of that spirit from some of the work collected here.

To me, while there's something to be said for his sense of scope and his inclusion of people in a larger community of living and nonliving things, Williams is at his be
Eric Phetteplace
I like the raw, Americanness of the book, the sometimes proletarian focus, the restrained yet often brilliant usage of form. In the end though, too much nature poetry. There's nothing I'm more wary of than poetry that romanticizes nature, except maybe love poems that romanticize love and women and men etc...
Dec 02, 2007 Grant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
though it is difficult to say, i think he is my favorite poet. full of scenes from moments of life, straight to the kernal of the thing, sexual at times, american in rhythm and syntax and subject. everday subjects perhaps but not everday in style and philosophy.
Jun 16, 2015 Lizzy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wem, classics, poetry, quirky
I found these poems intriguing. Some I could make no sense out of ! Throughly enjoyable were the poems base on Brueghel especially read while examining the corresponding painting.

Some lines I enjoyed: The poem
If it reflects,the sea
Reflects only
Its dance
Upon that profound depth
it seems to triumph

To me, that is what his poetry is. Different kinds of dances about life.

The Last Words of My English Grandmother was poignant. "What are all
those fuzzy looking things out there?
Trees? Well, I'm tir
Jun 13, 2014 Erika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-and-re-read, own
solid. obscure at times-- i tend to favor his more accessible, simply worded poetry, i.e., The Red Wheelbarrow, et al. Those poems are included in this collection as well. Interesting to read his extended poem "Paterson" on the town of Paterson, NJ. Paterson is nothing like that, imho. Give me a pen: i'll write volumes on that place and it won't be too pretty, but it'll be true. He was just communicating his reality, though, which is probably different from a modern perspective on the town. Agai ...more
J. Alfred
Feb 25, 2016 J. Alfred rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Williams: the plums guy, sure, imagism and all that. Yes, gentle reader, but there is more.
Even the excellent Hugh Kenner, when he says "'no ideas but in things' is an epistemology (what you can know is in front of you)" is only reporting on a part of Williams's work, the part that doesn't really touch poems like "Tract" or the later "The Ivy Crown," which I must have read three or four times before it went off like a whirlwind for me this time through. This is a relatively unique poem in that
Lucas Miller
Mar 20, 2015 Lucas Miller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Purchased years and years ago. I'd never really taken the time to move past the familiar poems from the 1920s, but this reading really opened my eyes, not just to the diversity of William's work, but to its lasting significance. Again and again while reading I found myself reverse engineering allusions to Williams and his far flung influence on poems and prose I've been reading all along. It's a commonplace to say that Williams is a cornerstone of American poetry in the 20th century, and I suppo ...more
Martin Bihl
Mar 02, 2008 Martin Bihl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This guy knew what poetry was about and almost every one of these poems is like a moment captured in amber. Read it!
Oct 06, 2008 Tye rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: beautiful things
Recommended to Tye by: intuition
Shelves: favorites
best book of poetry. not even close. WCW destroys me.
Jun 13, 2016 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Proletarian Portrait

A big young bareheaded woman
in an apron

Her hair slicked back standing
on the street

One stockinged foot toeing
the sidewalk

Her shoe in her hand. Looking
intently into it

She pulls out the paper insole
to find the nail

That has been hurting her

Williams uses language that produces immediate and clear images. A woman with her shoe, a cat stepping into a flowerpot, a man walking in the gutter, plums that are so cold and so sweet. The simplicity is breathtaking. What we might see as co
Michael Arnold
Feb 15, 2016 Michael Arnold rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, poetry
This is a very interesting collection, one I enjoyed very much. I think at times Williams was a victim of his own ideas - the constant imagist drive to be new and simple in language but complex in interpretation has lead to some of his poems being frankly aestheticlally uninteresting but famous, like 'Red Wheelbarrow' and 'Just to Say'. They aren't 'beautiful', actually they were simple observations (NOT simplistic) that stand for universal truths.

This finding the universal in the particular is
Ian Mathers
Sep 25, 2015 Ian Mathers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, 2015
Really, this and the Larkin were both more like 3.5 stars, but this towards the higher and that towards the lower, so... as contrasted to Larkin, though, here I found the most famous works ("This Is Just to Say" and "The Red Wheelbarrow") among the best or most resonant work. If anything, this has done a better job than many Selected Poems-type works of making me want to investigate further; the excerpt from Two Pendants: For the Ears is excellent, and the selections from Paterson, while not ear ...more
Sean A.
Nov 23, 2012 Sean A. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
these poems happen to be brimming with trees, bushes, but also the suburbs and the city, as well as a constant and puzzling love, both of simplified objects and (i presume) his wife.
lets examine;...

how about williams' form itself?; which is what got williams such a marvelous reputation as he currently enjoys...
well, i think there are a couple great ways to take full advantage of free verse...long breathless unadulterated lines with a million images an hour jammed into them, such as ginsberg
Jan 05, 2016 Aryeh rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've read William Carlos Williams before in small doses and liked what I read. The next logical step seemed to be to read a book of his poems, carefully selected for just such a reader as myself. Unfortunately, this collection not only didn't live up to my expectations at all, it completely bored me. Out of the collection of 83 poems, I liked 3. Two of those are ones I had read prior. With this many misses and so few hits, I'm now thrown to questioning whether I really am a fan or not, after all ...more
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William Carlos Williams was an American poet closely associated with modernism and Imagism. He was also a pediatrician and general practitioner of medicine. Williams "worked harder at being a writer than he did at being a physician," wrote biographer Linda Wagner-Martin. During his long lifetime, Williams excelled both as a poet and a physician.

Although his primary occupation was as a doctor, Will
More about William Carlos Williams...

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The Last Words of My English Grandmother

There were some dirty plates
and a glass of milk
beside her on a small table
near the rank, disheveled bed--

Wrinkled and nearly blind
she lay and snored
rousing with anger in her tones
to cry for food,

Gimme something to eat--
They're starving me--
I'm all right--I won't go
to the hospital. No, no, no

Give me something to eat!
Let me take you
to the hospital, I said
and after you are well

you can do as you please.
She smiled, Yes
you do what you please first
then I can do what I please--

Oh, oh, oh! she cried
as the ambulance men lifted
her to the stretcher--
Is this what you call

making me comfortable?
By now her mind was clear--
Oh you think you're smart
you young people,

she said, but I'll tell you
you don't know anything.
Then we started.
On the way

we passed a long row
of elms. She looked at them
awhile out of
the ambulance window and said,

What are all those
fuzzy looking things out there?
Trees? Well, I'm tired
of them and rolled her head away.”
“they are mystified by certain instances.” 3 likes
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