Machine Made of Words

A poem is a small (or large) machine made of words. When I say there’s nothing sentimental about a poem I mean that there can be no part, as in any other machine, that is redundant.
(Selected Essays 256)

The Local

THE LOCAL IS THE ONLY UNIVERSAL: In proportion as a man has bestirred himself to his own locality he will perceive more and more of what is disclosed and find himself in a position to make the necessary translations.
(Selected Essays 28)

The People

GO BACK TO THE PEOPLE: They are the origin of every bit of life of conceivable human interest... if we don’t cling to the warmth which breathes into a house or a poem alike from human need ... the whole matter has nothing to hold it together and becomes structurally weak.
(Selected Essays 178)


The dialect is the mobile phase, the changing phase, the productive phase—as their languages were to Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dante, Rabelais in their day..., it is there, in the mouths of the living, that the language is changing and giving new means for expanded possibilities in literary expression and basic structure.
(Selected Essays 291)

On Measure

We must invent new modes to take the place of those which are worn out. . . no verse can be free, it must be governed by some measure, but not by the old measure. We have to return to a measure consonant with our time... a purely intuitive one which we feel but do not name. . . a relative stable foot, not a rigid one.
(Selected Essays 339-40)

[William Carlos Williams. In Selected Essays. Random House, 1954.]