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May 15, 1972

William Carlos Williams: The American Background

Author Affiliations

Syntex Laboratories Inc. Palo Alto, Calif

JAMA. 1972;220(7):1016. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03200070104029

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A century ago it was still just possible for an American writer to be wholeheartedly American while keeping one cultural foot firmly planted on each side of the Atlantic. The world was a small enough place, and a specifically "American" idiom had yet to evolve. After 1900 one had to make a definite choice. T. S. Eliot, for example, turned his back on America and opted for Old World England. Dr. William Carlos Williams—physician, poet, and the subject of this scholarly if tangled book—chose the American way, and could never hide his scorn at the turncoats.

Nevertheless, as a young medical student Williams too felt the magnetism of Europe. But, unlike his lifelong friend Ezra Pound, he refused the call and settled instead into practice in Rutherford, NJ, where he spent his long and productive life writing poetry, novels, articles, plays, and letters in between attending to his equally demanding