William Carlos Williams and Alterity

The Early Poetry

William Carlos Williams and Alterity

Many critics have noticed the paradoxes and contradictions in the work of William Carlos Williams but few have analyzed them in detail. Professor Ahearn argues that Williams criticism has not gone far enough in recognizing the uses Williams saw for contradiction. He contends that Williams began to acquire his own voice as a poet when he recognized that he could be a vehicle for contending voices. His reading departs from previous examinations of the early poetry in the emphasis it places on the poems as expressions of Williams' social position. We find a Williams whose contribution to modernism came not through a radical break with tradition or a rejection of inherited poetic norms alone, but rather in a cultivation of tension, conflict, and a kind of poetic "crisis" that could be held forth as the metier of the modernist writer.


"Ahearn is very good at reading Williams's individual poems to demonstrate his thesis. He studies not only their imagery, but their syntax and prosody as well, and the results are both pleasurable and enlightening. Highly recommended." Choice