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I Wanted to Write a Poem: The Autobiography of the Works of a Poet

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  88 ratings  ·  13 reviews
Subtitled "The Autobiography of the Works of a Poet," this unique volume was the result of a series of informal conversations in the mid-1950s between Dr. Williams, his wife, and Edith Heal, then a student at Columbia University. In the relaxed atmosphere of the Williams home in Rutherford, New Jersey, the three discussed, chronologically, the poet's works as collected on ...more
Paperback, 132 pages
Published January 17th 1977 by New Directions (first published 1958)
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Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetshere
The approach was simple if strange. WCW would approach each of his books and recount the effort and activity required: a biography of his bibliography. There’s considerable candor on display and most often his wife, the interminable Flossie, proves to have the better memory. Unfortunately the details wane as Williams began his ultimate decline. Abounding with flourishes and the amber stream of memory, this is a lovely book.
Aug 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, poesia, city-poems
Editor Edith Heal does a great job of capturing Williams' honest reflections of his entire body of work from the beginning of his career up to the time of the interviews. Williams is open and honest and consistent on his desire to capture the American Idiom in both prose and verse.

Even more insightful are the commentaries from Florence Herman Williams, aka Flossie, the poet's wife. An astute reader and honest voice, these interviews cement her role as the key collaborator behind all of Williams
Jaek Wraf
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm not really knowledgeable in WCW ("The Red Wheelbarrow" is by far the poem I'm most familiar with), but this was still pretty fascinating. It's just an intimate conversation with Williams and his wife about his publications (more or less all of them, I think). A personal, honest view of a great poet's struggles and process. ...more
Melanie Faith
Mar 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you like to read about a famous poet musing on why he started to write, the various collections he's written, and his writing process, then this is the volume for you. It's a slim, one-afternoon read (my copy is from 1978 and is exactly 100 pages).

The anecdotes that WCW provided to Columbia grad student, Edith Heal, who spent summer afternoons in 1957 interviewing him and his wife are insightful and read like a prose time capsule. (Example: They even gave her a key to their home so that she
Eric Hinkle
May 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm no Williams fanatic, but some of his poems are fantastic, and he always seemed like a great person. Yet I was surprised at how enjoyable this book is. The whole book is a series of conversations between the author and a student of his, with the author's wife adding here and there. It's a friendly, engaging book, all about his experiences writing these books, his reactions to the work now, and his life at the time of writing. They go through each and every book he ever wrote, and try to talk ...more
Sur Cur Lengel
Sep 29, 2009 rated it liked it
Each breath:
I'm learning to inhale
And exhale
Without flaring thoughts,
Without jerking about
(impulsive response)
To complete the doing--
No anticipation
(crooked, nervous man)
But slowly
What I do
How I breathe--
Each breath. (4-1-08)
May 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I wanted to be WCW.
This is a fantastic book for any creative type. W.C. Williams is funny, poignant and clever in this quasi-autobiography about the creation of a poem and his life as he has grown older.
Maria Hrickova
Dec 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Mar 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting. Some of Williams' language is offensively dated, and I'm not sure what to make of that, but it was an engaging, quick read. ...more
Louis Cabri
“Free verse was not the answer. From the beginning I knew that the American language must shape the pattern; later I rejected the word language and spoke of the American idiom—this was a better word than language, less academic, more identified with speech” (65).

“Word of mouth language, not classical English” (75).

“We lack interchange of ideas in our country more than we lack foreign precept. Every effort should be made, we feel, to develop among our seriuos writers a sense of mutual contact fir
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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

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“You remember I had a strong inclination all my life to be a painter. Under different circumstances I would rather have been a painter than to bother with these god-damn words. I never actually thought of myself as a poet but I knew I had to be an artist in some way.” 8 likes
“I had sent [the magazine] a batch of poems which they turned down flat. I was furious. Floss [my wife] said, 'If I were the editor of that magazine *I* would turn down what *you* sent.' So *she* picked a batch and they accepted them *all*.” 3 likes
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