Spring and All

Spring 2023 – photo: Simon Pettet

Last year it was the Centennial of “The Waste Land” this year it’s the Centennial of William Carlos Williams’  “Spring and All” 

As the poet Ann Boyer in her illuminating essay on the book, writes:

“As a total work, the 1923 Spring and All was not available to general readers until 1970 when collected in Imaginations.  Instead, Spring and All was the name given to the initial poem (beginning “On the road to the contagious hospital…“) and the following twenty six sections of verse extracted from this work and arranged as a lyric sequence, one which included “The Red Wheelbarrow”. This editorial decision was William’s own.”

The original book was was printed in France an edition of 300 for Robert McAlmon‘s Contact Publishing Co. by Maurice Darantière, a printer who, just the previous year had printed the first edition of James Joyce‘s Ulysses.  Its distribution (like Ulysses, indeed like much avant-garde literature) was fraught, to say the least. As Williams’ biographer Paul Mariani has noted, “…most of the copies that were sent to America were simply confiscated by American customs officials as foreign stuff and therefore probably salacious and destructive of American morals”
“In effect, Spring and All all but disappeared as a cohesive text until its republication (in Imaginations)  nearly ten years after Williams’ death.”

Spring and All was restored by New Directions as a free-standing text (with an introduction by poet C D Wright in 2011

We cannot over-estimate the book’s abiding importance.

“By the road to the contagious hospital…”

Poet Ron Silliman declares: “If there is a single book that strikes me as representing the apotheosis of modernist writing, it is Spring and All.”

One comment

  1. Harvey Brown, whom I believe was studying at SUNY Buffalo at the time, published a semi-pirated edition under the Frontier Press imprint in 1970, seven years after WCW’s death, that came as a shock to his readers. Beautiful book, with an & for the “and”.

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