The Idea of Death in William Carlos Williams: A Study in Selected Short Poems

Shubbar Abdul Adil Mousa

Adab Al-Kufa, 2018, Volume 1, Issue 3, Pages 72-87

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) is a modern American poet, novelist, critic, painter and pediatrician, who established his literary carrier with the advent of the twentieth century surveying various fields of life with a doctor's eye. He provides the English literature with prolific contributions that bear witness of his impressive ability and comprehensive realization of life as an artist.
Williams reflects numerous salient traits in his works especially in poetry, but his primary concern is the application of naïve good sense and native intelligence to devise the poetic structure that would formalize experiences without deforming them. He says: "let the beat of speech determine the measure; to rinse the language of ornament and encrustation to scrupulously selective but to allow for accident and impingement." 1
Williams, who had been a derivative poet up to at least the age of thirty, became within few years a "remarkably original one. The reason for his striking transformation has never been adequately discussed. It is generally assumed that the change was due to the progressive maturation of Williams' poetic skills."2
Williams affirms the function of art, and of poetry in particular, a new kind of precision, equivalent to scientific method but directed towards obejectivising experience. To do this the" writer according to Mike Weaver, had to become his own reader, a functioning perceiver observing himself in action."3 Williams stated in his letter to John C. Thirwall the new tradition that he had devised to write his poems and how he had become aware of a basic change that affects the way of writing them.
It is part of our present situation in the world that when we perceive an alternative to our action which enlarges the fields which they occupy, we feel inevitably impelled to give them the head to go where they are called… There are leads which points the way to the approaching changes, undoubtly unwelcome that have been latent for centuries. The tendency of the race is to resist change violently.4

Williams' poems 'the Dead Baby' , 'Death', 'the Shadow', 'Winter Trees', 'To Waken An Old Lady' and 'the Barber of Death' reveal an outstanding orientation directed by the poet to the concept of death and all its incurring aspects as it is examined by an experienced American doctor who surveyed man from birth to death. The research aims at proving this orientation and displaying the poet's points of view whether it is positive or negative and his concept of regeneration and renewal.