The Poetry of William Carlos Williams

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 11971

Do you think of poetry as lofty, rhyming, rhythmic paeans to important people, or as picturesque chronicles of nature? How about your normal life? Learn how poetic that just might be!


Literary Studies

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • What occupation do you think the poet William Carlos Williams had for forty years?
  • Does that mean being a poet isn't really an occupation? What do you think?

William Carlos Williams was an unconventional twentieth-century American poet.

William Carlos Williams

Although he wrote poetry and prose, he was a practicing family doctor in Rutherford, New Jersey, for forty years.

As a member of the middle class, Williams wrote about suburban life and captured the language of the patients with whom he interacted. Although Williams's parents had wanted Williams to pursue a stable career in medicine, Williams was drawn to the creative energy of poetry as a teenager.

He was frustrated over the lack of recognition his poetry received throughout much of his life; however, he worked with influential poets in the early twentieth century, such as H.D. and Ezra Pound. He became a mentor to mid-twentieth-century poets, including Allen Ginsburg, until his death on March 4, 1963.

As you read this biography on William Carlos Williams, answer the following questions on a separate sheet of paper.

  • How did Williams's parents influence Williams when he was a child?
  • With what influential poet did Williams strike up a friendship?
  • With what literary movement did Williams become affiliated, and what was the purpose of this movement?
  • What subject often inspired the topics in Williams's poems?
  • Why did Williams want the language of his poems to mirror modern American speech?
  • Why did Williams take a ten-year hiatus from publishing poetry?
  • What was the purpose of Williams's use of the variable foot in his poetry?
  • Why did the mood of Williams's poetry change in the 1940s until he died in 1963?

When you have finished answering the questions, check them against the ones provided below.

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  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of having another career for a writer?

Move on to the Got It? section to read several of Williams's poems.

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