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Patersonby William Carlos Williams
Literary critic Marjorie Perloff once made the claim that when the history of free verse is written, William Carlos Williams will be a primary figure. Such were the words that turned my attention back to Williams. But it wasn't until a friend sent me a passage from Paterson: Book II "Sunday in the Park" that I began to truly appreciate Williams's range and power. Paterson is a long poem set in Paterson, New Jersey, and was originally published as five separate books over a decade. Later, such a literary landmark would make an impact on the poetry and poetics of Charles Olsen's Maximus Poems and related branches of contemporary American poetry/poetics. Paterson's charm is in the juxtaposition of different literary elements — from news accounts to long prose passages to sculpted verse sections. All the stuff of life is in Paterson: there are passages on the alienation and suffering caused by the lack of epistolary contact and communication and sections ripe with power struggles and longing. Moreover, that famous declaration "no ideas but in things" comes from the section "The Delineaments of the Giants" from Book I.
Here, a thought-provoking passage from Book II:
I asked him, What do you do?
Recommended by K.P., Powell's City of Books
Synopses & Reviews
Paterson is both a place--the New Jersey city in whom the person (the poet's own life) and the public (the history of the region) are combined. Originally four books (published individually between 1946 and 1951), the structure of Paterson (in Dr. Williams' words) "follows the course of teh Passaic River" from above the great falls to its entrance into the sea. The unexpected Book Five, published in 1958, affirms the triumphant life of the imagination, in spite of age and death. This revised edition has been meticulously re-edited by Christopher MacGowan, who has supplied a wealth of notes and explanatory material.
Long recognized as a masterpiece of modern American poetry, WIlliam Carlos Williams' Paterson is one man's testament and vision, "a humanist manifesto enacted in five books, a grammar to help us life" (Denis Donoghue).
'Paterson is Whitman's America, grown pathetic and tragic, brutalized by inequality, disorganized by industrial chaos, and faced with annihilation. No poet has written of it with such a combination of brilliance, sympathy, and experience, with such alertness and energy.' - Robert Lowell
About the Author
William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) was born in Rutherford, New Jersey. He received his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, where he met and befriended Ezra Pound and H.D. (Hilda Doolittle). At the same time as maintaining a popular medical practice, he became a prolific poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright. Experimenting with new techniques of meter and lineation, Williams sought to invent an entirely fresh--and singularly American--poetics, whose subject matter was centered on the everyday circumstances of life and the lives of common people. He was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2009.
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