The Poetry of William Carlos Williams of Rutherford by Wendell Berry
In this book about the poetry of William Carlos Williams, Wendell Berry writes that …technical knowledge in any amount cannot substitute for the ability to hear the difference between a good line and a bad one. (p. 67).
Poems are lines of words distilled from life through inspiration, talent and technical understanding. Wendell Berry writes about these three in this analytic tribute to Dr. Williams (d. 1963 in Rutherford, New Jersey).
Of course the poetic talent which Williams possessed was a gift for turning words into poems, with an ear for a good line, but the basis of Berry’s tribute is Williams’ sustained, artistic, vocational attention to his town and to the people of it. As he made his living as a medical doctor, serving the immigrant poor, he made his art from the same experiences and perceptions.No ideas but in things was the teaching Williams repeated. Berry sees in the older poet an artistic steward of a certain place, a committed listener to local concerns in Rutherford, an artist working within a colloquial American language and a provincial life, just as Berry himself works his farm, and his fields of poems, on his Kentucky home place...
…we have always needed distinctly local arts of poetry, storytelling, painting, and music in America, just as we have always needed distinctly local arts of agriculture, fishing, and forestry. Without such rootedness in locality, considerately adapted to local conditions, we get what we now have got: a country half destroyed, toxic, eroded, and in every way abused; a deluded people tricked out in guads without traditions of any kind to give them character; a politics of expediency dictated by the wealthy; a disintegrating economy founded upon fantasy, fraud, and ecological ruin. (p. 176)