US poet, who received the Dial award (1926), the National Book Award (1950), and the Bollingen Prize in Poetry (1952).
The son of an English father and a Puerto Rican mother, Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, and educated in France and Switzerland before returning to the USA to study medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. After a short spell at Leipzig University working as a paediatrician, he set up as a general practitioner in Rutherford, where he remained until his retirement in 1951.
Despite his connections with Europe, Williams's best poetry focused on his native land. His first published work was Poems (1909); subsequent collections of poetry included The Tempers (1913), Kora in Hell (1920), and Sour Grapes (1921). Spring and All (1923) marked a turning point in Williams's attempt to evolve a definitive American poetic technique. Various influences from the world of art contributed to its emergence, including expressionism, dadaism, and cubism. In literature, Williams was briefly associated with the objectivists, an offshoot of the imagist movement.
The bulk of his poetry appeared in Collected Later Poems (1950) and Collected Earlier Poems (1951). Probably his most important achievement in the latter half of his career was the epic four-volume Paterson (1946–51). Williams also produced two collections of essays, The Great American Novel (1923) and In the American Grain (1925), as well as short stories and several novels, including the trilogy comprising White Mule (1937), In the Money (1940), and The Build-Up (1952).