Although its reception was mixed, Collected Poems 1921–1931 shows in range and depth, perhaps for the first time, what Williams could do as a poet. During the 1930s he also produced, in The Knife of the Times and Life Along the Passaic River, two fine collections of short stories. Besides these, and related to them in its objective naturalism, is his 1937 novel White Mule, first of the Stecher trilogy. For Williams the period immediately before the Second World War was a complex including his link with the newly formed publisher, New Directions, and his libretto for a proposed opera by George Antheil. These were the years, when correspondents sometimes addressed him as ‘Comrade Williams’, of his associations with the New Masses, New Republic and, latterly, Partisan Review. He contributed rather earnest assessments of slim volumes by the proletarian Sol Funaroff and the ‘Missouri dirt farmer’ H. H. Lewis to New Masses and, in answer to yet another of the ubiquitous questionnaires, supplied the ironic two-liner:
What’s wrong with American literature?
You ask me? How much do I get?
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- 1.Fernand Léger, ‘The Esthetics of the Machine’, Little Review vol. ix, no 3 and 4 (1923–4) pp. 45–9; 55–8; and ‘A New Realism - the Object’, Little Review vol. xl, no. 2 (Winter 1926) pp. 7–8.Google Scholar
- 11.John L. Thirlwall, ‘Two Cities: Paris and Paterson’, Massachusetts Review, vol. III, no. 2 (Winter 1962 ) p. 285.Google Scholar
- 15.Carol C. Donley, “‘A little touch of / Einstein in the night”: Williams’ Early Exposure to Themes of Relativity’, William Carlos Williams Newsletter vol. iv no. 1 (Spring 1978) pp. 10–13, gives a detailed context for the writing of this poem.Google Scholar
© Charles Doyle 1982