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Paterson

Paterson

poem williams book books

William Carlos Williams's compendious poem in five books presenting the social, topographical, cultural, and historical characters of a typical American industrial community; the work takes its title and local and historical particulars from Paterson, New Jersey, a large town not far from Williams's home in Rutherford. Books I to III appeared in 1949, Book IV in 1951, and Book V in 1958; a single edition of all five books was published in 1963. Williams's insistence on the poem's immediate relation to the flux and continuity of life came to preclude any intention of ending it; a sixth book was in progress at the time of his death in 1963. The overarching sense of the interpenetration of the locality and its human constituents is embodied in the quasi-mythological figure of ‘Dr Paterson’, who simultaneously represents the town as a physical entity and the consciousness that perceives it. After the opening's geographical and social survey of the area, the poem enters upon a sustained recognition of the abuses of power and consequent suffering, prior to the celebration of vitality and the vision of potential regeneration in Book V. In comprehending the multifariousness of his subject Williams employs techniques of literary collage by incorporating documents relating to various aspects of the locality; unabridged letters from Ezra Pound and others are also among the materials used. The scope of the poem is enormous, extending to discussions of, for example, African-American patois, economic theory, medieval tapestries, and the customs of tribal societies. Paterson marked the fullest realization of Williams's belief in the inexhaustible resources of local experience as the truest basis for poetry. The poem exerted a prevailing influence on the works of many of his successors, most notably Charles Olson, whose methods form an extension of those originated in Paterson.

A. B. Paterson (Andrew Barton Paterson), commonly known as ‘Banjo’ Paterson Biography - (1864–1941), (Andrew Barton Paterson), commonly known as ‘Banjo’ Paterson, The Man from Snowy River [next]

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