William Carlos Williams is a poet that became well known and recognized by his imagist poetry in the twentieth century when imagist poetry had recently gained attention (“A Brief Guide of Imagism”). Williams’s intentions were to contradict the romanticism and Victorian poetry that was popular at the time and to give the people a more realism point of view in his imagist poems (“William Carlos Williams”). In the poem “To a Poor Old Woman”, William Carlos Williams uses imagery and symbolism to convey an image and an understanding of the harsh lifestyle taking place during the Great Depression. William Carlos Williams was born in 1883, the first born of William George and Raquel Helen Williams. Williams’s parents were two of the founding members of the Rutherford Unitarian Society, although Williams’ was never strongly rooted in his religion, much of his work has religious connections. William lived in New Jersey for the first 14 years of his life, in 1897 he traveled to Switzerland and Paris and returned in 1899.
He graduated from high school in New York and soon after was accepted to the dental school of the University of Pennsylvania but soon decided to do medical school instead (Timko). This is where he met his close friends Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle. Ezra Pound, “noted as the founder of imagism” (“A Brief Guide to Imagism”), greatly influenced Williams poetry and directed him to the imagism form of writing. Hilda Doolittle was also an imagist poet.
After receiving his medical degree from Pennsylvania, he went on to study pediatrics at the University of Leipizig and interned in various New York hospitals, by 1910 Williams began to practice pediatrics back in Rutherford. Williams continued his medical career for over 40 years, and although this career didn’t allow him much free time, he would still write as much as he could (“William Carlos Williams”). Ezra Pound was the one that launched Williams as a poet in 1912, about a couple years after Williams had begun his practice in pediatrics. By 1914, Williams, Pound, and Doolittle, along with other poets, published a collection of poems titled Des Imagistes (“A Brief Guide to Imagism”).
Williams’s early life along with his career as a Pediatric doctor really inspired his work as a poet and author. Ezra Pound was also an inspiration and had an immense impact on Williams, this was clear in many of his poems that would follow the guidelines or tenets of imagist poetry set by Pound, Williams even goes as far as comparing meeting Ezra Pound to B.C and A.D (“William Carlos Williams”). Williams goal was to write realist poetry but critics would describe many of his poems as romantic. This conflict within his writing is most likely the result of his allegiance to Ezra Pound and the adoration of his mother. Pound stood for science and realism, while Williams’s mother represented impulse, romance, and creativity (“William Carlos Williams”).
Williams admiration of the both is evident in his poetry and explains why people confuse his “realist” poetry with “romantic” poetry. Either or most of his poems are still vivid with images, gaining him the title of an imagist poet (“William Carlos Williams”). In “William Carlos Williams: Embattled Messiah”, a biography written by Michael Timko, Williams is said to defy “all conventions—formal, political, and religious” in his works and mentions that Williams was “dedicated to establishing a genuine American idiom” (Timko). As a doctor Williams was adored by his patients and he enjoyed his work as physician. In his autobiography he writes about how his experiences as a doctor are heavily implanted into his poetry and writings. When the depression hit in the 1930’s, Williams became extremely saddened as he realized how hard the situation was for his blue-collar patients, this emotion transferred on to many of his famous poems such as “To a Poor Old Woman”.