Ron Silliman on William Carlos Williams

In December 1999, as he prepared to participate in a symposium on contemporary avant-garde poetry, Ron Silliman wrote the following, in part about how different generations of poets have read Williams:

[S]omething Robert Creeley said at his reading in Camden recently [November 1999] made me conscious once again of how radically different the different generations will read certain poets. For Creeley, the important Williams was his 1944 book, The Wedge, and what mattered to Creeley was seeing how much the work was driven by (his word) "anger."

Now Williams had a huge impact on me -- it was discovering The Desert Music when I was 16 that made me realize that poetry was the form/genre/tradition that would allow me to do what I wanted to as a writer. But it was Spring & All that would be for me (and I suspect for many others of "my" generation) become the defining WCW text, coming as it did into print for us only with the 1970 Frontier Press edition. Similarly, I have always been struck by how there seems to be one Louis Zukofsky who exists for poets only a few years my senior (John Taggart or the late Ronald Johnson, say) and another for "my generation." One of the real distinctions of what became known as Language Poetry would be this different reading of these two writers.