The act of seeing : poem, image and the work of William Carlos Williams
Williams' poetry is greatly influenced by the visual arts. The foundations of his technique were laid in the 1910s when he came in contact with the European revolution in art. He wanted to create a poetry local to America and drew inspiration from painters such as Juan Gris and Cezanne whose technique's he tried to apply to words. His interest in painting led him to attend to the nature of vision in his writing; by scrutinising the quality of his sensory perception - particularly his vision - he hoped to discover the unique, indigenous features of his environment. At the same time, he wanted to open his poetry to the reader so that the discovery could be shared. He thought of a poem as a newly-created object that the reader would perceive like any other object. In order to incite the reader’s live perceptions, he made poems that are informed by their visual effect upon the page: the pattern of a poem's layout or lineation which the reader sees actively contributes to what the poem may come to mean. In Paterson Williams experimented with a variety of visual effects, but the reader's engagement with the look of the page is hampered by Williams', need to impress the reader with his argument: the argument distracts from the reader's perception of the text. In his last poems, however, Williams' technique allows the reader to approach the poet's thought through the perception of the text. Sight is important to these poems since it both reveals the local environment to the poet, and simultaneously seems to embody it as no form of conceptual thinking can. By perception, the poet – and the reader is able to discover the world, for he senses that, each moment, it can be seen afresh.