In the postal business, there’s a term of art (as it were): the forever stamp. Forever stamps are always equal in equal value to the current U.S. first-class mail 1-ounce rate. The term has been in use for some years, but hasn’t really been relevant until fairly recently. In eras when rates were stable — we all remember the days when the announcement of a rate increase was an event, causing a slight shock and even protest, something for which we anyway had to plan — a “forever stamp” was essentially superfluous.
I'll bet most readers of this commentary did not realize that William Carlos Williams made a television appearance. Yes, it was September 4, 1957, and the old stroke-inhibited but still feisty poet went to the studios of WABD (New York) and appeared with host John Wingate on a show called Nightbeat. Today we've segmented the audio version of this recording into topics. You'll note that WCW talks about television for 33 seconds, and about Stevenson, Eisenhower and Kennedy for a minute and a half (already anticipating the 1960 presidential election). Here are those segments:
on practicing medicine and writing poetry (1:59): MP3
on the Greenwich Village poets and separating from the crowd (4:15): MP3
William Carlos Williams Indiana College English Association Conference, Hanover College, Indiana, May 16, 1952
Morning Program: Lecture “Smell!” (Al Que Quiere!, 1917) from “Paterson Book II, iii” (‘Look to the nul’ to ‘endless and indestructible,’ 1948)
Evening Program: “Portent” (The Tempers, 1913) “The Botticellian Trees” (1930) “Flowers by the Sea” (An Early Martyr and Other Poems, 1935) “To a Mexican Pig Bank” (An Early Martyr and Other Poems, 1935) “To a Poor Old Woman” (An Early Martyr and Other Poems, 1935) “Pastoral” (Al Que Quiere!, 1917) “To Elsie” (Spring and All, 1923) “On Gay Wallpaper” (1928)
All poems except Paterson areincluded in The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Volume I, 1909-1939. All poems are segmented on Williams' PennSound page.
By all accounts, the Stanford-based critic-poet Yvor Winters was prickly. His views on good and bad versions of modernism: usually, the earlier and the more “precise”/imagistic the better. His view on Stevens (the early modernist, detached, comic ironic short stuff of Harmonium was good, the later rhetorically blown-up long-lined essayistic poems, poems made of philosophical propositions, were bad) had a huge effect on a generation of teachers who thought that to teach Stevens one had to teach only “Sunday Morning” or “Ploughing on Sunday.” His view on William Carlos Williams: early short stuff good, late stuff sloppy and imprecise.
Accompanied by editors Kenneth Burke, John Brooks Wheelwright, and Matthew Josephson (often operating under the nom de plume Will Bray), Secession moved in upredictable directions over the eight installments of its premeditated two-year run. Munson writes:
Beyond a two year span, observation shows, the vitality of most reviews is lowered and their contribution, accomplished, becomes repetitious and unnecessary. Secession will take care to avoid moribundity. (Secession no. 1, 25)
New audio: William Carlos Williams offers commentary on "This Is Just to Say" (the "rape of the icebox" poem) and includes his reading of his wife's reply to the poem. This is an audio-only clip from the documentary film about WCW's life and work made as part of the "Voices & Visions" series, so you will hear the music put behind an animated recreation of the writing of the note-poem, Flossie's discovery of it and her response to it.
One of my favorite bits of William Carlos Williams’s writing in the last years. It is dated February 26, 1958. On that day WCW sent a letter of Chinese American poet David Rafael Wang. Wang was something of a Poundian (a correspondent of Pound’s — and a bit of a Poundian nut). WCW sent Wang a quick translation he’d just then done of a poem by Li Po, and added a note: “You can't translate it and give its brevity and overtones that are given in the original language.” True enough, but what WCW does I find pretty compelling. Above I’ve reproduced the look of the letter’s page. I've always felt that the voice heard (not heard — pictured) is simultaneously both that of WCW and of Pound and that this letter to Wang was a message to Pound. I haven’t looked in the Wang-Pound papers to see if indeed Wang passed along some word of this to Pound but I’m betting he did.
On July 8, 1999, we at the Writers House held our first live interactive webcast. The discussion was all about William Carlos Williams's "To Elsie" (the pure products of America go crazy) from Spring and All. I hosted and was joined by Bob Perelman, Shawn Walker, and Kristen Gallagher. We fielded questions from people watching on the internet, among them Jena Osman and Terrence Diggory.
It was streamed as video in RealVideo format and preserved as a video later in the same format. (Those who have RealPlayers installed still can watch the grainy video.) Later we extracted the audio from the video and now we've segmented that audio into topical segments. Here are the segments:
 Bob Perelman reading "To Elsie" (2:21)
 Kristen Gallagher on facing alterity (4:30)
 Al Filreis on the poem's uncertainty (1:54)
 Bob Perelman and Al Filreis on "the pure products of America" and the issue of control (5:26)
 Shawn Walker, Al Filreis, Kristen Gallagher and Bob Perelman on Williams' position towards Elsie (6:44)
 Bob Perelman and Al Filreis on imagination (8:26) audience comments and Bob Perelman on "peasant traditions" (3:17)
 Bob Perelman on how the open architecture and "unsuccessful" quality of Williams' poems are relevant to poetics today
 Al Filreis on Williams' attraction to the new "mixed" American culture
Here is the link to the page with links to audio and video.
PennSound's Williams page includes eight recordings of the poet reading this poem.
Having internalized the way in which "Young Woman at a Window" (W. C. Williams) beckons toward (a) readers, (b) WCW himself, somewhat mischievously looking in from outside, and (c) the absent, waited-for father, Matthew Abess took to the American road, and found, in Centralia, Washington, a decorative plate for sale, entitled "Daddy's Home," yours for just $2.50. I assume Matt bought it.