William Carlos Williams & Charles Tomlinson: A Transatlantic Connection

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Barry Magid, Hugh Witemeyer
P. Lang, 1999 - Biography & Autobiography - 161 pages
An important chapter in the story of Anglo-American literary relationships in the twentieth century is the friendship of the American poet William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) and the English poet Charles Tomlinson (1927- ). The two men assisted and encouraged each other in a variety of ways, and their transatlantic dialogue continues to interest readers and critics of modern and contemporary poetry. This edition includes the correspondence of Williams and Tomlinson, a selection of their critical writings, observations on their relationship by Hugh Kenner, Paul Mariani, and Donald Davie, and a selection of poems by Tomlinson that show the influence of Williams.

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A Creator of Spaces by Hugh Kenner
Passages from Letters to William Carlos Williams
Measure by William Carlos Williams

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About the author (1999)

Poet, artist, and practicing physician of Rutherford, New Jersey, William Carlos Williams wrote poetry that was experimental in form, ranging from imagism to objectivism, with great originality of idiom and human vitality. Credited with changing and directing American poetry toward a new metric and language, he also wrote a large number of short stories and novels. Paterson (1946--58), about the New Jersey city of that name, was his epic and places him with Ezra Pound of the Cantos as one of the great shapers of the long poem in this century. National recognition did not come early, but eventually Williams received many honors, including a vice-presidency of the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1952); the Bollingen Prize (1953); the $5,000 fellowship of the Academy of American Poets; the Loines Award for poetry of the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1948); and the Brandeis Award (1957). Book II of Paterson received the first National Book Award for poetry in 1949. Williams was named consultant in poetry in English to the Library of Congress for 1952--53. Williams's continuously inventive style anchored not only objectivism, the school to which he most properly belongs, but also a long line of subsequent poets as various as Robert Lowell, Frank O'Hara, and Allen Ginsberg. With Stevens, he forms one of the most important sources of a specifically American tradition of modernism. In addition to his earlier honors, Williams received two important awards posthumously, the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1963) and the Gold Medal for Poetry from the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1963).

Distinguished both as poet and painter, Tomlinson was born in Stoke-on-Trent and received his B.A. from Queen's College, Cambridge, in 1948. After a few years of elementary school teaching and a period as private secretary in northern Italy, he returned to study at London University, from which he received an M.A. in 1955. He has taught in the English department at the University of Bristol and visited the United States to teach at the University of New Mexico and at Colgate University. One of the British poets most open to transatlantic influences, Tomlinson has profited from an array of modern American poets, including Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, and the objectivist group. Having begun as a painter, he often emphasizes visual elements in his verse."My theme is relationship," he has said, "a phenomenological poetry, with roots in Wordsworth and in Ruskin, is what I take myself to be writing." Many of Tomlinson's best poems, such as "At Barstow" and "Two Views of Two Ghost Towns," concern the American West. He has also done critical essays and some fine translations of Spanish writers, including the poetry of Antonio Machado y Ruiz.

Barry Magid is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst practicing in New York City, and the founding teacher of the Ordinary Mind Zendo, also in New York. He is the author of the Wisdom titles Ordinary Mind and Ending the Pursuit of Happiness.

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