Since 2005, the William Carlos Williams Poetry Symposium (WCWPS) has held commemorations in Rutherford, NJ, to explore the work and life of Rutherford’s native son, who lived his entire life in this small town and is referred to as the father of modern 20th century poetry. The 2005 Symposium was the first celebration of the poet in his hometown in 23 years and Rutherford was designated a Literary Landmark. The event featured, among other things, a round up of the scholars who were important in establishing his historic reputation. The first Rutherford production of his play “A Dream of Love” was performed with world-renowned NYC actress and director Judith Malina as host. In 2006, in conjunction with the Hispanic Heritage Organization, the WCWPS focused on WCW’s mother Raquel Hoheb to reflect on his Spanish heritage and his mother’s influence on his poetry. The 2007 Symposium celebrated not only WCW’s birthday but also the 25th anniversary of the renaming of the Williams Center with a seven-poet reading, followed by a fundraising gala for the Center.
In 2008, during WCW 125th birthday, the WCWPS hosted a family panel of newly reunited descendents of WCW and his brother Edgar Irving in an effort to learn more intimate details about the man. Pulitzer-prize winner Dr. Robert Coles, poet and biographer Paul Mariani, and other noted scholars who knew WCW also spoke. That year, WCW was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
WCW’s brother Edgar Irving turns 125 on October 5, 2009, and this year the WCWPS has chosen to highlight his life and relationship to his poet brother with a Symposium on October 2 and 3, 2009 at the Williams Center and Library. In their day, EIW was the more famous of the two brothers, particularly as an architect, and he designed buildings in Rutherford, NYC, and locales abroad. To WCW, his brother, who was a painter as well as architect, often seemed a more fully rounded artist than himself.
At this year’s Symposium, there’s something for poets, scholars, and architects. Saturday October 3 events at the Williams Center (1 Williams Plaza) go from 9am till 10pm. They include a media presentation on WCW and EIW growing up in Rutherford with an accompanying bus tour of sites by Borough Historian Rod Leith. Another media presentation by EIW scholar William Neumann will recount the architect’s professional life after college. Neumann also curated an exhibit of EIW’s architectural portfolio on display at the Center. An exhibit of EIW’s fine art contributed by EIW family members private collections is also being shown. Scholar and writer Andrew Krivak (“Letters of WCW to EIW, 1902-1912”) discusses the brothers’ close and competitive relationship. In keeping with the event’s architectural theme, poet Jim Klein has chosen WCW poems about places to be read throughout the day against photo projections of the site mentioned in each poem.
The special Saturday evening program, conceived and directed by actress and director Ellen Lanese Spaldo, is a multi-media staged reading of the brothers’ letters and WCW poems, as well as a premiere performance of drawing room comedy skits written by WCW around 1920 for the Rutherford “Polytopic Club,” of which he and EIW were founding members in 1916. Each month club meeting was held at the home of a different host who decided on the evening’s entertainment or “topic” of discussion. EIW once created a giant “gorgeously illuminated” crossword puzzle that revealed the names of club members in the overlaps once the puzzle was completed. Attire was formal, music was usually played, and meetings ended in a social hour when “dainty refreshments” were served. In that spirit, a champagne reception follows the performance.
On Saturday October 3, the Rutherford Library (150 Park Avenue) will screen the WCW “Voices and Vision” documentary and offer guided tours of the WCW Room and special collection. On loan from the Meadowlands Museum will be a series of Charles Sheeler photographs commissioned by WCW of local buildings he knew were scheduled to be demolished. Also on exhibit is an architectural photography project by Rutherford High School students. The Red Wheelbarrow Poets will hold a lunch-time reading from their newly released second anthology in the Library Garden.
Throughout Saturday, sale tables in the Williams Center lobby will offer special books, such as Krivak’s WCW/EIW Letters, Neumann’s book Rutherford: A Brief History, Red Wheelbarrow Poets anthology, hard to find WCW materials, t-shirts, and other WCW and EIW memorabilia. During the lunch break there will be an EIW commemorative stamp cancellation ceremony.
To kick off the Symposium, on Friday, October 2 at 6pm the WCWPS joins the Borough of Rutherford and the Veterans Association in a tribute to EIW and Rutherford’s veterans at the WWI Monument that presides over the town circle at Park and Passaic Avenues between the Post Office and Library, all three of which were designed by EIW. A restoration project of the monument will include a new time capsule containing the names of WWI veterans omitted from the original list. Following the tribute is a Williams family reception with refreshments at the Library where the preservationist architectural firm of Wank Adams Slavin Associates will give a brief presentation on the monument’s attributes and its restoration.
Day-time admission is free. Reservations are recommended for the Saturday evening program ($10 donation). These can be made (check, cash, or charge) by visiting or calling the Williams Center at One Williams Plaza, 201-939-6969 M-F between 9-3. Bus tours are $5 donation and tickets are available on a first come first serve basis at the Library, 150 Park Ave, 201-939-8600 (cash or check only). Check back at www.williamcarloswilliams.org for more information, updates on scheduling, participant bios, and related events.