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William Carlos Williams and His Imagist Poetry

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    Modernism and Imagism, two movements in literature ,which were developed in the 20th century . At the beginning of the decade ,modernism was a revolution of style . Crime, depression, and materialism filled this era. Musician, artists,and writers broke away from technique to create a new art. Also, imagism brought fragmental and chaotic life where nobody felt secure and happy. After that,modernism was related with decent and realistic art form.

    The modernist artists like Edwin Dickinson and a painter Arthur Dove looked for an object of inspiration ,individual vision and the value of immediate observation where they emphasized on surroundings around them in everyday life. Some modernists were supported by photographer and gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz who obtained the power to change the drift of American art. Moreover,art,drawing and painting were based on subjects describing actual world ideas. Also, modernism was a variety of ‘’-ism’’ such as Fauvism,Cubism,Dadaism and Futurism to break away the previous rules of orientations,color,and writing in order to their own visions.

    Some time after modernism,the imagist poets began to gain importance. They wrote short poems that their work would be rich and direct. They focused on individual images and clear description about subject. Furthermore,those movements wanted to eliminate inflexible structure of Romanticism where objects and images showed their true essence and to be freed from metaphors. One of the greatest American Poets of the 20th century who made a lasting impact on American poetry was William Carlos Williams. He combined and developed two movements in literature.

    As a fascinated boy by simple objects to a grown man who appeared as a simple commentator of everyday images, he was able to create Imagist poetry. William Carlos Williams was a poet whose writing was a great example of the modernist and imagist style . In his poetry, he used free verse , American rhythmic of speech and vivid images. He focused on fresh, clear and simple description about objects to find inspiration from daily life. Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey on September 17, 1833 to parents who were deeply engaged in the arts and literature.

    His mother was an eager painter who loved romance, freedom and inspiration, while his father was a book lover who introduced William to his favored author Shakespeare. Also, William lived with his brother , grandmother and his two uncles. When William Carlos and his brother were growing up and speaking Spanish and French as well as English, they learned various personalities from the family members. This upbringing was impacted on his imagist poetry later in life which was stated obvious when William wrote,’’Of mixed ancestry, I felt from earliest childhood that America was the only home I could ever possibly call my own.

    I felt was expressly founded for me, personality’’(1). However, William’s childhood was not easy to develop his creative side of artistic movement in writing. His British father, as a deeply religious man, rose up his son with a perfect set of morals. Along with this, William learned from early age that he was expected to succeed, so he worked as hard as he could to fulfill these expectations, he wrote that ‘’terror dominated my youth, not fear’’(2). According to James Breslin about William, he said ‘’from the rigid idealism and moral perfectionism his parents tried to instill him’’(2).

    Also, his Puerto Rican mother had a huge effect on him to art and poetry, particularly John Keats. According to Encyclopedia of World Biography ‘’ about her interest in art, which became ,as he says, his own’’ and we could read from the same reference ‘’it was his mother who shaped the man himself and the verse he actually created’’. At the first time, William became fascinated by visual art and was concerned in shapes and objects while he was observing his mother during a little painting or ‘’an outdoor study of a twig of yellow and red crab-apples from a nail’’(3).

    Williams was not only fascinated for painting but also for poetry and prose where his experience abroad and got to know Ezra Pound and Charles Demuth to help him find his own style of writing. As a schoolboy he spent two years in Switzerland and Paris and during his medical studies he visited Germany, Great Britain, and other European countries. When William was in Paris , he developed a part of his imagination by simple activity and observation. However, Europe was the kind of artistic movement and of new thoughts which gave him entrance to gain experience in modern art.

    While being in college , William found the works of Walt Whitman and John Keats . He began to mirror their style. Although, the biggest influence on William’s writing during his college career came to know Ezra Pound and Charles Demuth. Through these friendships William developed modern poetry and painting. Through Pound, Williams met a circle of young artists who helped him discover the freedom in writing and art to find his style of writing which he had never found before.

    The circle of friends, including a poet Hilda Doolittle and an artist Charles Demuth, began to create the Imagist movement in poetry. They wanted to free objects from their symbolic character and from the limits of Romanticism in their poems. According to David Perkins poetry got stuck by ‘’the inversions and redundancies imposed by the effort to fill out a standard form’’(2), so the imagists intermitted a verse to ‘’swift, uncluttered, functional phrasing’’(2). During this lifetime, Williams began to develop opinions that their friends used too many unnecessary allusions.

    Instead of this, he was known for not using typical meter of poetry ,which still keeping his poems simple and to the point. After graduating college, William began working as a doctor to give him inspiration to write imaginative poems. Through his work as a doctor ,he saw all different kind of humanity, and he applied the stories which witnessed to his poetry. By spending years always seeing births,deaths, suffering, and rehabilition, William observed many of beautiful and ugly aspects which gave him inspiration to write down his feelings on any piece of paper t hand. According to his Own Prescription, he wrote ‘’The relationship between physician and patient ,if it were literally followed, would give us a world of extraordinary fertility of the imagination which we can hardly afford…’’(4). During the World War I , William became a member of modernist group in New York. The group of writers and artists, was known as ‘’The Others’’, included Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia. The group wanted to create the ‘’rhythms of everyday speech’’ without using ‘’a specifically American idiom’’(5).

    William was disappointed with that idea because he wanted to use ‘’The American idiom ‘’ and ‘’The variable foot’’, according to Hugh Kenner (6). He liked to use adjectives American and variable to achieve something rhythmic. William like many writers, poets , and thinkers were fascinated by Dadaism, Imagism, and Cubism. The members looked for making point of the aspect of war where were testified. Finally, William began to follow his own aims to seek specific sensation of American rhythms in his poetry.

    He concluded that they used a British instead an American sound. According to William Carlos Williams, he told ‘’The American idiom has much to offer us that the English language has never heard of ‘’ (7). The final effect on Williams’ imagist poetry was to meet Alfred Stieglitz. The photographer, Alfred Stieglitz, opened his first of a few galleries in New York, called the 291. These galleries were resolute for the New York art scene when everyone could go to find images of something new to see it. Stieglitz was also known for being the editor of the little agazine ‘’Camera Work’’ which stimulated the development of photography and modernist painting. ’ ’Camera Work’’ and the galleries made it possible to publish and promote modern art. Both artists, Williams and Stieglitz, tried to connect European modern art with American common life . They preferred to focus on a clear , immediate, and sensual objects to depict their shapes, form and colors in relation to each other. They also wanted to express everyday situations that happened in the country without neglecting parts of the social, physical , or ental environments.

    Finally, William found the structure of imagist verse in his poetry. He came with simple and fresh language to center on everyday happenings in his lifetime. The subject and form was emphasized by new rhythms and common speech in daily American life. Also, he relinquished the British stress pattern to frame a standard ‘’American’’ image. He emerged with the ‘’variable foot’’ to find the method of breaking lines and solved the problem between form and freedom in verse. Moreover , William used contrast between colors to apture moments and objects like painters grasped scenes with their paints and canvases, or like photographers captured scenes with their cameras. ‘’The Red Wheelbarrow’’ was a first poem which mirrored those above- mentioned expectations to create William’s own imagist style in poetry , offshoot of Modernism. The poem was written in free verse and a simple and precise language. It was composed of four stanza, each consisting of two short lines. The entire poem contained only sixteen words, four words in each stanza..

    Every stanza without the first one depicted a concrete image: ‘’a red wheel / barrow/ glazed with rain/ water/beside the white/chicken’’. The second line of each stanza had two syllables. The first line of the first and the last stanza had four syllable and two stanzas in the middle had three syllables in their first lines. However, William broke the image down to the most basic part when he put the pause between the word ‘’wheel’’ and ‘’barrow’’. He broke up the words in order to see the object more closely. Tone of the poem was emotional where the speaker eemed anxious and concerned at the beginning and neutral in the remainder part of poem. The colors red and white contrasted sharply with one another. In closing , Williams Carlos Williams was influenced and inspired by his family, friends, various artists, painters, and photographers to create his own imagist style of writing. He was adorable because as a child began to develop interest in visual art to become a famous imagist poet who wrote poems featured clear and concrete images which brought him glory. He inspired many others like him who in turn make their own style.

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