William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) published four books of verse, one of which was Sour Grapes: A Book of Poems (1921). The collection of fifty one poems clearly established him as America's foremost poet of the twentieth century.
Williams was serving as a physician in his home town of Rutherford, New Jersey, and in hours after work wrote fiction, poetry, plays, and criticism . Educated at Horace Mann School in New York, from 1902 until 1906 he studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, where he met Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle . In 1912 Williams married Florence (Flossie) Herman and it was the following year when Pound arranged the publication of Sour Grapes in 1913 with The Four Seas Company in Boston finally published in 1921.
During much of his early poetic career in the 1920s and 1930s, Williams labored largely in obscurity; because his values ran counter to those of the critically acclaimed poetry of the day namely, the classicist, academic, and formal poetry exemplified by T. S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens. It wasn't until some twenty years after Sour Grapes with the publication of the first Paterson volumes in the 1940s, however, that he gained wider recognition, and the emerging Beat Movement poets of the 1950s acknowledgments for his rejection of formalism.
Williams observed American life closely, expressed anger at injustice, and recorded his to free-verse expressionisms in a lucid, vital style. pattern frequently structuring Williams's Sour Grapes is a despairing "descent," from which the poet emerges envisioning a rebirth of creative activity through the power of a rejuvenated imagination
Apart from influences from the visual arts, there are also literary ones. Al Que Quiere! and Sour Grapes, demonstrated how Williams adopted Imagist techniques for his poems of discovery, as some have call them. . An early participant of the American avant garde, Williams developed a poetic style in which vivid imagery is expressed in the sounds, rhythms, and idioms of common American speech. Sour Grapes sad and brittle reflections are representations of some of the basic tenets of Imagism, described as the utmost concentration on one or a few images, and the total absence of "verbiage" or outworn poetic diction. Appealing so much to the characteristic of Williams and his refusal to invariably "poeticize" the details on which a poem focuses by the employment of overt metaphors and similes. Williams comes close in his 1923 poem The Red Wheelbarrow yet he still stays a step away from the Imagists' haiku-inspired practice of linking up an "outward" image to an "inward" metaphorical one endeavoring to remain as faithful as possible to the immediate sensory experience. One could say he was as American as Blueberry Pie as opposed to American as Apple Pie if one could venture the application of idiom to his works and might, but as often did not, necessitate the introduction of a few overt metaphors and similes in an attempts to define his unique art.
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 emergence of Sour Grapes, including expressionism, dadaism, and cubism. In literature, Williams was briefly associated with the objectivists, an offshoot of the imagist movement and he integrated these ideas along with other fine arts homogenizing American precisionism . An authentic contrast in surprise and strange, and at the same time opaque Williams' poker-faced use of American idiom he has faith in the readers inner imaginations and response to everyday life with his fanciful and wayward inventions interested in finding truth in what he doesn't know.
A First Edition of Sour Grapes (one of 1000 copies printed ) in 'very good condition,' with an inscription the title-page by Williams to his editor Dave McDowell sells on the Internet today for $2,250.00.
Index to Poems
Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, "Williams, William Carlos," Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988.
Public domain texts for poems noded by me was taken from The Poets’ Corner:
Williams, William Carlos: