William Carlos Williams

'Trouble Songs'

A musicological poetics

Trouble Songs: A Musicological Poetics is an investigation of the appearance of the word trouble in twentieth- and twenty-first-century music. It is a book-length project, comprised of three parts, each broken into modular chapters, or Trouble Songs, which build on one another as a series of albums, but are also intended as remixable and programmable singles. What follows is a compilation that spans those three parts.

'Maybe, it is only on Earth / that we lose the body?'

Williams and the decaying body

Contact sheet (detail), ca. 1960, Beinecke Library Special Collections (photo by Harry Grossman).

The most compelling feature of William Carlos Williams’s poetry, for me, has perhaps always been the complex tango of virility and fragility that fight it out in his deeply autobiographical poetry. The idea that man could be both potent and capable of great frailty was a fact of his work that resonated with the vigorous and clumsy youth I was when I first encountered his work. Williams traces the deterioration and ultimate betrayals of his body in his poetry, reflecting on both the particularities of his condition and the universals of aging.

A short interview with Fred Wah

Fred Wah was born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan in 1939, but he grew up in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia. He studied music and English literature at the University of British Columbia in the early 1960s where he was one of the founding editors of the poetry newsletter TISH. After graduate work in literature and linguistics at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and the State University of New York at Buffalo, he returned to the Kootenays in the late 1960s where he taught at Selkirk College and was the founding coordinator of the writing program at David Thompson University Centre. He retired from the University of Calgary in 2003 and now lives in Vancouver. He has been editorially involved with a number of literary magazines over the years, such as Open Letter and West Coast Line.

On reading & teaching the modern long poem, with reference to Williams's 'Paterson' & two passages from Eliot's 'The Waste Land'


Eric Alan Weinstein and Al Filreis spent some time in the Wexler Studio of the Kelly Writers House talking about the problematics of the modern long poem.

'Kora in Hell: Improvisations,' the audio

Douglas Storm has made a recording of himself performing William Carlos Williams’s Kora in Hell: Improvisations. The recording is 1:46:13 in length and has been divided into thirds (LINK). Because Williams republished the book in 1957 without the original preface, Storm begins his reading after the preface. Thus the opening is this: “Fools have big wombs. For the rest? here is pennyroyal if one knows to use it. But time is only another liar, so go along the wall a little further: if blackberries prove bitter there ll be mushrooms, fairy-ring mushrooms, in the grass, sweetest of all fungi.” The full text of Kora is available here (among other places) at the Internet Archive.

A poetics of virtuosity

A. R. Ammons.
A. R. Ammons.

“A Poetics of Virtuosity” considers — through the writing of A. R. Ammons, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Arthur Rimbaud, William Carlos Williams, and the obscure Trumbull Stickney — what it means to write against the dominant literary modes of your time.

Maverick translation

What with vital writers and artists — Rainer Maria Rilke, Pablo Neruda, Paul Celan, Franz Kafka, Joan Baez, Robert Lowell, and others in Memoirs of a Maverick Translator — what with them, a time comes for various other people, events, jokes, unique ideas, and more. They have wild difference, thus not much order or connection.

Poetry, art, and multilingualism

Broadcasting Tlingit

Inert, by Nicholas Galanin. 2009, Collection of the Burke Museum, Seattle
Inert, by Nicholas Galanin

Earlier this summer, I met up with my friend Gregory Laynor at the corner of 14th and Union in Seattle. We walked down to the Frye Art Museum to see the show Your Feast Has Ended, which featured the work of Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes, Nicholas Galanin, and Nep Sidhu. The show had been getting a lot of interesting reviews, and the posters advertizing it, which we were seeing all around town, featured a taxidermied wolf. In the picture the wolf looked distressed: its back half was flattened, splayed out as a rug. But its front half was stretching forward and flexing its paws. It looked like it was trying to get up.

John Taggart: From his own words

A 2009 letter from Taggart to Joel Chace.

As Lorine Niedecker once wrote of Louis Zukofsky, I can write the same of John Taggart: “I [am] fortunate enough to call him friend and mentor.” I met John back in 1985 as a freshman at Shippensburg University. By some strange luck, I like to believe it was the hands of the gods, I was assigned John as my adviser. I was an undeclared major with “poetry” listed under Hobbies on my application.

Twelve poets each teach a poem to high-school students in 20 minutes

Video and audio recordings at PennSound

In 2009 and again in 2010, I invited six poets — each year, so twelve total — to teach one poem each to high-school juniors and seniors. Each session lasted twenty minutes. And we preserved all twelve sessions as video and audio recordings. Go here to watch or listen to them. The poems were:

1. John Ashbery, "This Room"
2. Erin Moure, "The Frame of the Book"
3. Harryette Mullen, "Trimmings"
4. John Keats, "[This living hand]"
5. Yvor Winters, "At the San Francisco Airport"
6. William Carlos Williams, "The Last Words of My English Grandmother"
7. Lorine Niedecker, "[I married...]"
8. Robert Creeley, "The Sentence"
9. Helen Chasin, "The Word Plum"
10. Frank Sherlock, "Wounds in an Imaginary Nature Show"
11. Harryette Mullen, "Zombie Hat"
12. Basho, selected haiku; John Ashbery, "37 Haiku"

Syndicate content