A Poet's Double Life

For poets working outside the literary world.

Chair Emeritus: William Carlos Williams

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William Carlos Williams (September 17, 1883 – March 4, 1963) was a pediatrician and general practitioner who worked out of his home on 9 Ridge Road in Rutherford, New Jersey. Williams knew from very early on that he would have to support his love for writing with another career. In his autobiography he writes:

“First, no one was ever going to be in a position to tell me what to write, and you can say that again. No one, and I meant no one (for money) was ever (never) going to tell me how or what I was going to write. That was number one. Therefore I wasn’t going to make any money by writing. Therefore I had to have a means to support myself while I was learning.”

Williams pursued medicine and poetry with equal dedication and commitment and often times simultaneously, for example stopping by his poet friends’ apartments in New York City after long days of advanced graduate training at pediatric clinics. Known for writing poems on the back of prescription pads, Williams felt being a doctor and a poet were “two parts of a whole, that is not two jobs at all, that one rests the man when the other fatigues him.”

Happy 129th Birthday, WCW!

Chair Emeritus is a monthly feature highlighting famous poets who have or are living the double life.

Author: poetsdoublelife

Poet and data guru living in Durham, NC.

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