Williams could have lived anywhere in the world but he chose— adamantly—to live in Rutherford. He drew on his environs as a source of inspiration for all of his writing and for his philosophy of writing—a belief that American writing should employ the language of everyday people. The NJ Historical Society’s publication, “Jersey Journeys,” wrote this of Williams and his connection to this area, “Williams depended on his patients [and fellow Rutherfordians] for literary material. Their words and personalities are found in many of his poems. Williams also depended on his physical environment, or ones not far away, such as Paterson, for inspiration. In this way Williams is truly an American poet. He used his location—New Jersey—and the language of its people to talk about bigger issues.” The Symposium will not only honor a native son, but also highlight the intrinsic cultural inspiration that artists draw from this area—and give back.
Williams loved talking with people – his patients, neighbors, literary friends – and he wanted his poetry to reflect the everyday speech of those he talked with. In the beginning of his writing career, the poetry world was more interested in poets who wrote in an English tradition, such as T.S. Eliot. But Williams wanted to write in a different style, in an American language – plain spoken, simple, direct. As a result, it was years before he was recognized as a poet of stature. Today, the poetry world sees him as being ahead of his time, as a writer who influenced the direction of 20th century American poetry.
PHOTO: The Borough of Rutherford was designated a “Literary Landmark” in conjunction with the William Carlos Williams Poetry Symposium. This plaque is proudly displayed on Park Avenue side of the Rutherford Public Library. Photo: William Neumann Photography