Imagism was a movement in early 20th-century poetry that favored precision of imagery and clear, sharp language instead of the rhyming and Romantic style poetry. Many writers who followed in this new path became revolutionists who changed what poetry was once thought of. One of these insightful writers was William Carlos Williams. Williams’s poetry reflects elements and people of his life, events that took place throughout his life, and his writing shows his modern concept of literature that makes people feel emotions. Above all, Williams’s life is reflected in almost all his poetry.
Williams had a lifelong tension between modern and romantic poetry as a result of his long relationship with the revolutionary poet Ezra Pound and his mother’s more romantic influence (“William Carlos Williams,” par. 3). Ezra Pound launched Williams as a poet in 1912 when he helped get his poetry in the English Poetry Review although, Williams’s mother shaped him as a man and shaped the verses he actually created regardless of Pound’s ridicule. Thus, Pound influenced Williams’s poetry in ways of realism and science; while in contrast Williams’ mother influenced him in ways of romance, freedom and impulse.
According to Williams, “As a writer, I have been a physician, and as a physician a writer. ” (Flachmann, par. 2). Being a physician gave him financial stability, time to write in between working, and enabled him to absorb inspiration from patients whether they were sick, dying, or even being born. Being a writer made Williams; see through his patients eyes and feel what they were feeling making him get to know people of all sorts, which was a good thing for writers to do so they can then portray a character with ease.
As a result of these influences his writing only thrived. On the subject of historical events, between 1880 and 1960 many historical events took place that affected the works of literature written by all writers including William Carlos Willams. Imagism was a literary movement that influenced modern American poetry’s development and was the biggest contributor to the development of modernist techniques of all genres (Materer, par. 1). Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle were primary contributors of this movement and then involving Williams when Pound and Williams met in college.
Williams’s prominent works of imagery were poems “The Red Wheelbarrow”, “The Great Figure”, and “This Is Just To Say”. These works showed the concepts of imagery that made a person visualize, taste, and feel what was being said and these poems contributed greatly to the imagery movement. Yet by the early1930s, “Williams focused directly on America and the Depression in his aptly titled short story collection, The Knife of the Times. ” (“William Carlos Williams,” par. 17).
He seemed to be greatly affected by the Great Depression and this showed in his writing frequently like any other older writers of this time such as, Archibald MacLeish, and Langston Hughes. Being a doctor and the fact that he got his inspiration from his patients caused him to go deeply into the depression because most of his patients were in poverty from the depression. The stories in The Knife of the Times tried to bring out not only the hardships of the economical side of the depression, but as well as the social and individual sufferings.
Nonetheless, World War II and the Great Depression impacted literature greatly during this time. Specifically, the 1923 poem The Red Wheelbarrow, exemplifies William’s earlier imagist ideas at the time of Ezra Pounds influence. In the poem he talks about a red wheelbarrow, glazed with rain, sitting next to white chickens, and how so much depends upon this wheelbarrow (Williams 592). The poem itself is short and to the point with basic language, but consists of imagery as he describes this wheelbarrow he sees.
As he describes this picture to the reader, he makes it known that the wheelbarrow is on a farm due to the mention of it sitting next to the white chickens. Also he talks about how a lot depends on this wheelbarrow in many tasks on a farm even if it plays a small role in these tasks. He has a feeling of almost admiration towards this wheelbarrow, seeing it sit there glazed with rain, knowing that this small tool is depended on greatly when working on a farm. “So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow” (Williams 592).
The theme of the poem is that a small and simple object like the wheelbarrow is important to a big and complex thing like a farm. The wheelbarrow helps complex objects perform important tasks needed for a farm. Basically, Williams is trying to portray that something so simple does so much. All in all, Williams was a very influential writer who uses the people in his life as muses for his writing, as well as events that he experienced in life, and his writing showed modern concepts of imagism. Williams was a compassionate and observant writer who wrote about what he knew. He wrote about world catastrophes that affected him and the world like the Great Depression. In conclusion, Williams poetry was different than all the others and was truly his own.
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