"Something Urgent I Have to Say to You" by Herbert Leibowitz
The Life and Works of William Carlos Williams

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Synopsis

Herbert Leibowitz's "Something Urgent I Have to Say to You" provides a new perspective on the life and poetry of the doctor poet William Carlos Williams, a key American writer who led one of the more eventful literary lives of the twentieth century. Friends with most of the contemporary innovators of his era—Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Ford Madox Ford, and Louis Zukofsky, among others—Williams made a radical break with the modernist tradition by seeking to invent an entirely fresh and singularly American poetic, whose subject matter derived from the everyday lives of the citizens and poor immigrant com­munities of northern New Jersey. His poems mirrored both the conflicts of his own life and the convulsions that afflicted American soci­ety—two world wars, a rampaging flu pan-demic, and the Great Depression.





Leibowitz's biography offers a compelling description of the work that inspired a seminal, controversial movement in American verse, as well as a rounded portrait of a complicated man: pugnacious and kindly, ambitious and insecure, self-critical and imaginative. "Something Urgent I Have to Say to You" is both a long-overdue assessment of a major American writer and an entertaining examination of the twentieth-century avant-garde art and poetry scene, with its memorable cast of eccentric pioneers, includ­ing Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Marianne Moore, and Gertrude Stein.




 

About Herbert Leibowitz

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Herbert Leibowitz has been the editor of the literary magazine Parnassus since he helped found it in 1973. He lives in New York City.
 
Published November 8, 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 528 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Arts & Photography, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for "Something Urgent I Have to Say to You"

Kirkus Reviews

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Skeptical because, for all the close attention Parnassus editor Leibowitz pays to each phase of the physician-poet’s life, the author sometimes seems uncertain that Williams is a subject worthy of biographical scrutiny.

Sep 01 2011 | Read Full Review of "Something Urgent I Have to S...

The New York Times

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He can also be elegant in characterizing the cross-over between Williams the doctor and Williams the poet, as when, commenting on the splendid untitled poem from “Spring and All” that begins “By the road to the contagious hospital,” Leibo­witz notes that Williams was, by this point in his workhor...

Nov 25 2011 | Read Full Review of "Something Urgent I Have to S...

Publishers Weekly

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William Carlos Williams was an uneven figure: controversial as a modernist seeking a plainer American idiom;

Aug 01 2011 | Read Full Review of "Something Urgent I Have to S...

New York Journal of Books

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Using Williams’s own writings as a way of reinforcing part of the biography serves to familiarize the reader, more, with Williams’s writing and his voice, but also serves to alleviate Williams’s own concern about the nature of biography.

Nov 08 2011 | Read Full Review of "Something Urgent I Have to S...

Dallas News

It is, as editor and critic Herbert Leibowitz amply shows in Something Urgent I Have to Say to You, his fine new biography of Williams and the connections between his “Life and Works.” Throughout his long life (1883-1963) Williams was a doctor in Rutherford, N.J., where he grew up, with a practic...

Dec 02 2011 | Read Full Review of "Something Urgent I Have to S...

Washington Independent Review of Books

Herbert Leibowitz’s Something Urgent I Have to Say to You offers a consummate understanding of the psychological and sensual motivations for William Carlos Williams’s poetry.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Often when readers encounter William Carlos Williams in the too-brief space allotted classroom poetry -- weeks of high school English, required college reading -- they're offered a spare but juicy address about plums, called "This Is Just to Say": Sometimes these glimpses are followed by a jar...

Nov 23 2011 | Read Full Review of "Something Urgent I Have to S...

The New York Review of Books

Leibowitz makes this clear in his study, which is not a full biography—Paul Mariani’s William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked (1981) remains the standard treatment—but a close reading of the work with reference to major themes in Williams’s life.

Feb 23 2012 | Read Full Review of "Something Urgent I Have to S...

Book Forum

That has already been done by Paul Mariani in the 1981 tome William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked, which, in its almost nine hundred pages, managed to provide a more detailed, step-by-step account of Williams's life than Leibowitz's more critical study.

Feb 09 2012 | Read Full Review of "Something Urgent I Have to S...

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