William Carlos Williams is rightly considered a colossus among the giants of modern American poetry. He is best remembered as the author of the famously short and elusive poem – The Wheelbarrow – as well as for turning a lunchtime note to his wife (This is Just to say) into an enduring piece of art.
Working as a doctor in his native New Jersey, at home he worked tirelessly to change the way American poetry was written and for whom American poetry was written for. The various collections he published in his lifetime were primarily met with critical acclaim. This week’s poem belongs to his last collection, Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems, for which he was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1963. It is indicative of his prevailing style and displays many of his distinguishing qualities. Without rhyme or punctuation, Williams achieved many literary triumphs, including the dazzling example of ekphrasis below. It depicts the eponymous masterpiece by the Flemish painter, Pieter Brueghel the Elder in 1565. This alluring vignette of a hibernal vista left a lasting impression on Williams, who, armed with a medical eye, was able to identify the salient objects and figures that constitute the picture.