Honoring a Hometown Hero
(and Poetic Genius)

 

Penn takes pride in counting two of the 20th century’s poetic giants—Ezra Pound C1905 G’06 and William Carlos Williams M’06 Hon’52—among its alumni (see, for example, “Moderns in the Quad,” in the April 1998 Gazette).  But in the case of Williams, his hometown of Rutherford, New Jersey, probably has a stronger claim to bragging rights. While Williams earned his medical degree at the University, formed a lifelong friendship here with Pound, and was awarded an honorary degree in 1952, it was in and around Rutherford in northern New Jersey that he lived and wrote, raising his family and practicing medicine out of a home/office at 9 Ridge Road in the town—never mind that he titled his five-book poem Paterson after nearby Paterson, New Jersey.

With a little help from Kelly Writers House and some current and former members of the English-department faculty, the town is throwing Williams a birthday party this September 17 in the form of a symposium, including panel discussions on Williams’ influence on 20th-century poetry and Williams the man, physician, and Rutherford resident; video presentations; exhibits of photos and other artifacts related to his life and work; a play; and poetry readings and book signings.

Heading the panel on Williams’ poetry will be Penn English professor and poet Bob Perelman, whose books include The Trouble with Genius: Reading Pound, Joyce, Stein, and Zukofsky. Emily Mitchell Wallace, a former Penn English professor now teaching at Bryn Mawr, will participate and show her documentary, Poet Among Painters: Williams and his Artistic Parents and Brother. Winners of a high-school poetry contest will read at the symposium on September 17 and a week later will travel to Penn’s campus for another reading at Writers House on September 24 at 4 p.m.

For more information on the symposium, e-mail <wcwsymposium@yahoo.com> or visit the website (williamccarloswilliams.org). —J.P.


©2005 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 07/01/05


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Symposium Hometown honors William Carlos Williams
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Books Maxfield Parrish and the American Imagists
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