Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Collected Poems, Vol. 1: 1909-1939” as Want to Read:
The Collected Poems, Vol. 1: 1909-1939
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Collected Poems, Vol. 1: 1909-1939

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  6,131 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Considered by many to be the most characteristically American of our twentieth-century poets, William Carlos Williams "wanted to write a poem / that you would understand / ,,,But you got to try hard―."

So that readers could more fully understand the extent of Williams' radical simplicity, all of his published poetry, excluding Paterson, was reissued in two definite volumes,
Paperback, 465 pages
Published September 17th 1991 by New Directions Publishing Corporation (first published 1951)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Collected Poems, Vol. 1, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Collected Poems, Vol. 1

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily DickinsonLeaves of Grass by Walt WhitmanAriel by Sylvia PlathThe Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. EliotShakespeare's Sonnets by William Shakespeare
Best Poetry Books
2,478 books — 2,449 voters
The Complete Stories and Poems by Edgar Allan PoeThe Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke by Rainer Maria RilkeThe Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert FrostThe Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily DickinsonThe Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats by W.B. Yeats
Best Poets
323 books — 481 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,131 ratings  ·  46 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Collected Poems, Vol. 1: 1909-1939
Aug 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, poetry, recs
Collecting the poetry that William Carlos Williams wrote during the first half of his literary career, Vol. I also contains the best work of the poet-physician. WCW's influences were many, but at his best, he wrote candid verse about both ordinary and profound experiences, in a way that often recalls that of the plain-style poets of the early English Renaissance.
Oct 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2009
Let's get past "The Red Wheelbarrow" shall we? William Carlos Williams is a god among poets and artists alike. Having spent his nights with artists like Duchamp and Picabia and his weekends with Wallace Stevens and Marianne Moore, it is no surprise. And yet it is rare to hear anyone singing the William Carlos Williams praises.

Art influenced Williams for lack of any other inspiration. I don't see in his work that he ever really separated art from the writing.

Reading his collection, which covers 1
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
1914: The Wanderer; Pastorals and Self-portraits
1915: The Shadows
1916: Stillness; Drink; A Love Song; Naked
Aug 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This poem was a note WCW left for his wife on his refrigerator:

This is just to say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
Williams offers short lines and simple descriptions, little rhyme or meter, few emotions or ideas.
Jan 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
You really need to read the Collected to understand Williams. The various Selecteds out there really don't do this remarkable poet justice (though the review I read of Pinsky's new edited volume of Williams was positive--haven't checked that out yet). Williams was not just an Imagist poet, writing about how much depends on that red wheelbarrow, not just a free verse confessional poet of the late books, inspiration to Robert Lowell, the one who allowed him and Snodgrass and Plath and Sexton to "b ...more
Jon Corelis
Essential collection of a great American poet

***** A Five Star Poetry Book: Recommended for All Readers

W. C. Williams's poems are about as important to modern American poetry as the Rocky Mountains are to the American contintent: you can't get around them. As the reviews here indicate, he's still not to everyone's taste, but his influence is enormous, largely defining great areas of subsequent American verse (most of which however in my opinion isn't nearly as good as Williams himself.) If you a
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Inspired me so much when I first read this collection. Favorite (and I think one of the most popular poems from here) is "This Is Just To Say". I ended up making my own re-imagined version of this when I was 14. Definitely recommend C:
Dane Cobain
Apr 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wow, this is a pretty gargantuan task for me. Not only do I have to write a 580 word review of a collection of William Carlos Williams poems, but also, I have to do the exact same thing with the second part of the collection. Oh, and these are the last two books that I have left to review for, so no pressure – once these are reviewed, I’ve reviewed every book that I’ve ever read, or at least that I ever remember reading.

I suppose that the best place to start is with what wa
Apr 12, 2020 rated it liked it
More of a 3.5. Should also note that I haven’t read the inclusions from Paterson yet cause they looked kind of dull and slogging but I will eventually, probably. Read very much off and on between other books, poetry and otherwise.

Another note of relevance and to be stated for all future books of poetry I might review,

Things I dont want to read a poem about:
-A poem, whether real or (especially) as a concept
-A big ship
-Fear of the ocean
-A description of a painting
These all are subjects of William
Jun 22, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
I had very high hopes for this. I've admired Williams based on things I'd learned about him as a person, and have appreciated some of his poems, but I just couldn't make my way through this collection. Somewhat problematic is that it starts with his earliest least developed poetry, which is clearly not his best, but as it went on I found myself liking his poetry less and less.

EDITED TO ADD: I've been reminded of some of his later poetry, and I think the problem is that I like Williams a lot, but
Paul Wilner
Nov 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
so much depends on a red wheelbarrow
Dec 08, 2008 is currently reading it
Constant source of new words
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Reading a book such as this is meant to be a bit of a journey, but this particular journey was paradoxical due to the extremely varied quality of Williams' early work. When he is good, Williams is among my favorite poets of all time; when he is not so good, Williams is shockingly bland and even trivial. This collection contains the full text of "Spring and All," which is by far one of my favorite poetry collections ever published. As well, it is full of marvelous work, such as much of "Adam and ...more
Jul 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: partial-read
Spring and All ** -- Williams wrote the book Spring and All largely in response to T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland with its multiple languages, literary/historical references, and variety of forms. But what Williams counters with are a bunch of Romantic platitudes and mystical sounding vagaries aimed at straw men of various shapes.

The theme appears to be a desire to have an imaginative relationship with the world. “To refine, to clarify, to intensify that eternal moment in which we alone live there
Mitchell McInnis
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you don't know WCW, you should. His command of image and economy of syllable are essential to any student of literature. And if you're one of those readers who thinks poetry should rhyme, check out Williams' work and see why that antiquarian view is exactly that.
Sean Gaines
Mar 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
It's an amazing collection of poetry but I can't give it five stars because it's a collection not by the author but a volume of his poems from 1909 through 1939. A must have for the poetry section of ones library.
Steven Godin
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Articulately, W.C.W is now one of my favourite poets.
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Don't think you know William Carlos Williams from the few poems that get anthologized. This has been a very enjoyable and worthwhile read, with many poems I wish to return to. I rarely am able to say that about lengthy books of collected poetry.

This review is for the second half of the same physical book I reviewed a couple of weeks ago in the goodreads group Poetry Readers Challenge. Timewise, it covers from 1922-1939.

Among the work included in the second half is a 27 page poem called "The Des
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
William carlos williams is an excellent poet one of my favorite poem from him is Danse Russe

In Danse Russe, William Carlos Williams is taking a step out of the comfort zone. No man would actually tell people, that when their kid and wife is sleeping, they dance naked in front of their mirror. He is saying to everyone, so what if I admire my body and looks at myself, am I not still a man? He say “...who shall say I am not the happy genius of my household?” I believe when he is saying genius he
Stuart Marlatt
Mar 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry

Just as the nature of briars
is to tear flesh,
I have proceeded
through them.
the briars out,
they say.
You cannot live
and keep free of
- from "The Ivy Crown"

WCW is a mixed bag: romantic, prolific, innovative, influential and often deeply moving, but he fails as often as he succeeds. Fortunately, his successes are truly phenomenal. Everyone knows The Red Wheelbarrow and far too much self-conscious ink has been spilled on that little poem for me to add any here. Many of
Jul 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
I decided to read the collected poems of William Carlos Willams upon the recommendation of a poetry instructor I had taken a class from a few years back. The examples that she had read out loud, I remembered as being so fresh, so contemporary and iconoclastic. But when I read this book, I didn't find any of that, I found poems that I would often be confused as to what the author was talking about. Or I would be reading a poem, satisfied that I understood, only to be thrown for a loop when coming ...more
Apr 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, poetry
"First Praise"
"The Shadow"
"A Love Song" (1915)
"Pastoral" (the little sparrows...)
"Sympathetic Portrait of a Child"
"To Be Closely Written on a Small Piece of Paper..."
"The Thinker" (My wife's new pink slippers...)
"Spring and All: V"
"The Source"
"Birds and Flowers III"
"The Wind Increases"
"Poem" (as the cat / climbed over...)
"To" (A child (a boy) bouncing...)
"This is Just to Say"
"The Red Wheelbarrow"
"The Rose"
"The Girl" (with big breasts / under a blue sweater)
"The Term" (a rumpled sheet / of brown
Mar 31, 2009 rated it liked it
"the thing [the reader:] never knows... is what s/he is at the exact moment that s/he is. And this moment is the only thing in which I am at all interested.

I love my fellow creature. Jesus, how I love him: endways, sideways, frontways, and all the other ways — but s/he doesn't exist!

all art has been especially designed to keep up the barrier between sense and the vaporous fringe which distracts the attention from its AGONIZED APPROACHES TO THE MOMENT."
Gabe Redel
Sep 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
William Carlos Williams best stuff is in this early collection of his works. As a young man, he was simply more passionate about his thoughts and his writing. His typically writes free verse, but it is some of the best free verse of the 20th century. He, in my mind, is that writer who can dazzle and mesmerize with his light and playful descriptions as well as hit his reader in the head with a theological baseball bat.
Ed Smith
Oct 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Basically I read this on the Point Pleasant beach
in summer of 1985.

My friend Rich Markert and I rented
a house off the Point Pleasant Beach, NJ canal. I ride my bike or car to
the main beach & read it for a month on vacation.

Great simple American poems. I tell everyone at the library to
read this one. Here's WCW!!!at his best.
Nov 30, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I suspect that I will prefer Williams' later poems, and should find a copy of Vol. 2. It is interesting to chart his development through this volume, from rigidly following poetic convention to apparently trying a bit too hard to break it at every turn. Somewhere late in this volume, he begins to rein it in, and the poems he produced in the '30s are by far my favorites in this collection.
Karen Hood
Mar 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I am a fan of William Carlos Williams and this book will not disappoint. #PoetKarenjeanMatskoHood loves poems! Enjoy The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Vol. 1 1909-1939 by William Carlos Williams ...more
Aug 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Frankly, I'm still traumatized by having had to write a 25-page essay on "This is just to say" in a Master's literature class. Pretty much ruined any enjoyment of Williams poetry that I had.

That being said, Williams is a poet with a different twist on things. While seemingly simplistic, the underlying possibilities are profound. They won't always be easy, but they are certainly worthwhile.
Nov 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-for-class
Fantastic! The poems are top notch, of course, but what delighted me most about both volumes of this collection were the extensive notes at the back. They led me to several additional resources about Williams that I might not have found.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Collected Poems
  • The Collected Poems
  • The Poetry of Pablo Neruda
  • Collected Poems
  • The Complete Poems
  • The Dream Songs
  • The Wild Iris
  • “A”
  • Complete Poems
  • Leaves of Grass
  • The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara
  • The Complete Poems 1927-1979
  • Birthday Letters
  • Howl and Other Poems
  • Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair
  • Illuminations
  • A Sport and a Pastime
  • The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945-1975
See similar books…
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

News & Interviews

Are you spending this season bundling up against the chill or enjoying summery southern hemisphere vibes (in which case we are...
101 likes · 32 comments
“The noiseless wheels of my car
rush with a crackling sound over
dried leaves as I bow and pass smiling.”
“And a church spire sketched on the sky,
of sheet metal and open beams, to resemble
a church spire”
More quotes…