House Calls with William Carlos Williams, MD
“When they ask me, as of late they frequently do, how I have for so many years continued an equal interest in medicine and the poem, I reply that they amount for me to nearly the same thing.”
—William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams made his mark on the world as a legendary modernist poet, but he filled an equally significant role on a local level in his native New Jersey—as a doctor. Over the first half of the twentieth century, Williams built a successful practice as a pediatrician and OB-GYN, and while some of his patients made the journey to his office in the affluent town of Rutherford, many more were privileged with house calls.
House Calls with William Carlos Williams, MDis a collaborative effort by child psychiatrist Robert Coles and photographer Thomas Roma to retrace Dr. Williams’ rounds, which included patients from Rutherford all the way north to Paterson. Coles, an early fan of the doctor’s literary work, befriended Williams as a young man, and in the early 50s was invited to come along on many of these outings; his experiences are recounted here in engaging first-person anecdotes. Roma was given access to the patients’ addresses in 2001, and plotted a route he would travel with his camera over the course of the next five years; his quiet, contemplative photographs of the streets Dr. Williams walked provide a striking visual counterpoint to Coles’ text. Selections of Williams’ poetry are reproduced throughout, including excerpts from his five-part epic, Paterson. The result is an immersive experience, in which the reader may travel side-by-side with Williams, listening and learning from the famed poet, doctor, and mentor.
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