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Selected Poems

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  13,346 ratings  ·  183 reviews
Opening with Professor Tomlinson's superbly clear and helpful introduction this selection reflects the most up-to-date Williams scholarship. In addition to including many more pieces, Tomlinson has organized the whole in chronological order.

It isn't what he [the poet] says that counts as a work of art," Williams maintained, "it's what he makes, with such intensity of
Paperback, 302 pages
Published September 17th 1985 by New Directions (first published 1949)
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Average rating 4.16  · 
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 ·  13,346 ratings  ·  183 reviews

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Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What can I say? An absolutely stunning collection - a GREAT poet tells it like it is!

William Carlos Williams never pulled any punches - and had the temerity to play the neighbourhood sawbones, unscathed by the undoubtedly countless murderous thoughts of his patients toward their tell-all writer/doctor, in the same old town all his life - not-unhappily ever after!

How on earth did he DO it?

He had a will of iron, the hide of an old gator, and the poetic voice of the Angel Gabriel!

His poetry is
Dec 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetshere
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
Apr 02, 2019 rated it liked it
I read William Carlos Williams in the early 70's and didn't like his poetry much. I had to go back to an Original Poet---Walt Whitman, whom I hadn't thought I'd like but was mesmerized by "Leaves of Grass". I think William Carlos Williams and his ilk tried to do that also but rarely reached the level of Whitman.

One summer I locked myself in a dark storage room, with a single light bulb in back of the house of relatives in a Greek mountain village. It was cool, quiet and out of the way. There I
Jul 17, 2007 added it
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
Oct 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 28, 2012 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)
Shawn Sorensen
Oct 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Simon Robs
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
I like these poems, they are long and mostly short, subject specific and place oriented, both plain and flourished. With a gr's wink here is a few stanzas from book three "The Library" from "Paterson."

'A cool of books
will sometimes lead the mind to libraries
of a hot afternoon, if books can be found
cool to the sense to lead the mind away.

For there is a wind or ghost of a wind
in all books echoing the life
there, a high wind that fills the tubes
of the ear until we think we hear a wind,
actual' ...

Dec 16, 2009 marked it as to-read
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."

May 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The words in this book flow like a powerful river with wide and slow parts where you can spend prolonged moments of sight seeing of beautiful views spreading peace into your heart, and with deep and narrow ones which might give you the feeling of crossing through rapids bringing cascade of emotions and stirring up thoughts. Such an awesome journey in a world of undisguised beauty! I felt flames coming out of the poems some of them gentle which warmed up my day, and others very strong, which ...more
Apr 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Tyler V.
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
a painter with words, a poet! with verve!
"Selected" poetry collections are fickle things. Any poet, especially with a career as expansive as Williams', develops their style over an extended period of labor; labor which does not skip around from book-to-book, nor stylistic period-to-stylistic period, but accrues the features of a unique form through every poem the author pens.

And yet, a collection of selected poetry is ultimately necessary if new readers are to develop interest in a poet, few being expected to drop $40+ on the complete
Jul 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Holy shit, it has to be noted—and I did not do this on purpose—but it took me five years exactly to read this book. I started reading it on July 11, 2012, and finished it on July 11, 2017.

That's exactly how slow going it was.

To my disappointment, not everything William Carlos Williams wrote is as accessible as "The Red Wheelbarrow" and "This is Just to Say," two of his most famous poems. Instead, there's a mix of transparent and opaque.

And then there's Paterson, which he's also known for, a
Justin Walshaw
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Remember how in that movie 'Paterson' the guy's girlfriend says: Carlos William Carlos?
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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)

Jul 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Ah I wanted so badly to enjoy these poems but I found the language dull and the subject matter to be uninteresting. My favorite poem from this collection was "The Red Wheelbarrow', mainly because I had heard it somewhere before and thought it to be beautiful and zen. Maybe I'll give Williams another shot another day.
Read the red wheelbarrow for school.
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’ve been reading this slowly and deliberately and skipping around a bit. I find the poems in this collection suit that sort of reading. In my youth I was less taken with the mundane Americana of it all, but the economy of language and clarity have charmed me and my slow and steady old man mind. I will surely seek out more of his work when I get a chance.
Antonio Delgado
Mar 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
These poems teach us how to perceive the complexity of reality with wordy eyes.
Nov 19, 2018 rated it liked it
I wanted to like wcw because writer friends I deeply respect love him but i fucking hated this book for the most part
Stephanie P
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When they bang they bang!
May 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
5* for 'The Bitter World of Spring'
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,—
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
“I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,—

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?
- Danse Russe, pg. 9

Jul 14, 2013 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

May 17, 2012 rated it liked it
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 ...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,
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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