Williams, William Carlos, 1883-1963

William Carlos Williams Letters

1946-1986
1 box 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 367

An obstetrician from Rutherford, N.J., William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) was a key figure in modernist poetry in the United States. Innovative and experimental in his poetry, Williams was a member of the avant garde poetically and politically, writing in a simple though never simplistic style that was unencumbered by the formalism and literary allusion of peers such as T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound.

This collection consists of a small group of eleven letters and postcards written by Williams during the years 1946-1962, the majority of which were sent to Marie Leone, a nurse at the Passaic General Hospital in Passaic, New Jersey. In these letters Williams thanks Marie and her coworkers for the cards, good wishes, and gifts they sent to cheer him up. The letters are friendly and humorous even though they are for the most part written from Williams’s hospital bed during one of the frequent illnesses he suffered from in the later years of his life.

Background on William Carlos Williams

The son of an English father and a Puerto Rican mother, William Carlos Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey. in 1883, where he later spent more than forty years serving the city as an obstetrician and the chief of pediatrics at Passaic General Hospital. Although he had a long and successful career as a physician, Williams is best known as a key figure in American poetry, closely associated with modernism and imagism. He devoted his life to developing a distinctly American verse by using colloquial American English, pushing against the “speech of the English country people, which would have something artificial about it.”

With the publication of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land in 1922, Williams distinguished himself from his contemporaries by developing his own distinctive brand of modernism, simpler, on the surface, than the complex and highly allusive mainstream of Eliot or Ezra Pound. From the 1950s onward, however, Williams’ aesthetic became increasingly influential within academic circles. He served as a mentor to many young poets and was influential in several literary movements, including the Beat movement, the San Francisco Renaissance, the Black Mountain school, and the New York school.

After surviving a heart attack in 1948, Williams was beset with heart troubles and strokes for years. Despite failing health, he continued to travel and lecture until he passed away in his sleep in March 1963.

Contents of Collection

This collection contains eleven letters and postcards written by William Carlos Williams and his wife Florence H. Williams, most of which were sent to Marie Leone, a nurse at the Passaic General Hospital. Also included are a small set of Christmas cards sent by the Williams’s son, a photograph of William and Kathleen Hoagland, and a small collection of newspaper clippings.

Collection inventory

Christmas Cards
1986 Dec
Box 1: 1
Correspondence: Williams, Florence H. to Leone, Marie
1948 Mar 4
Box 1: 2
Correspondence: Williams, Florence H. to Leone, Marie
1952 Oct 20
Box 1: 3
Correspondence: Williams, William Carlos to Armstrong, Louise
1951-1955
Box 1: 4
Correspondence: Williams, William Carlos to Leone, Marie
1946 Dec
Box 1: 5
Correspondence: Williams, William Carlos to Leone, Marie
1948 Mar 3
Box 1: 6
Correspondence: Williams, William Carlos to Leone, Marie
1948 Mar 9
Box 1: 7

Contains a copy of the poem, “Song of the Queen Bee,” by E.B. White

Correspondence: Williams, William Carlos to Leone, Marie
1957-1959
Box 1: 8
Correspondence: Williams, William Carlos to Leone, Marie
1960 Mar
Box 1: 9
Correspondence: Williams, William Carlos to Leone, Marie
undated
Box 1: 10
Correspondence: Williams, William Carlos to O’Brien William
1962 Apr
Box 1: 11
Photo: Williams, William Carlos and Hoagland, Kathleen
1949 Jul
Box 1: 12
Time Magazine Clippings
1963
Box 1: 13

Administrative information

Access

The collection is open for research.

Language:

English

Provenance

Acquired from Paul Mariani, 1993.

Processing Information

Processed by Joanna Nevins, Apr 2018.

Copyright and Use (More informationConnect to publication information)

Cite as: William Carlos Williams Letters (MS 367). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Acquired from Paul Mariani, 1993

Subjects

  • Poets, American

Contributors

  • Williams, Florence H. (Florence Herman), d. 1976
  • Williams, William Carlos, 1883-1963

Types of material

  • Letters (Correspondence)
  • Photographs
  • Postcards

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