ject assiduously, and she presents hernfindings in a dry, academic tone andnlong-winded style; As one could onlynwonder about Porter’s choices of husbandsnand lovers, all of whom let herndown and treated her poorly, one alsonwonders about her choice of biographer.nShe might have done better.nC>ompared to Porter’s life, WilliamnCarlos Williams’s, as delineated bynPaul Mariani in William Carlos Williams:nA New World Naked, was farnless eventful. While Williams knew atna young age that he would have preferrednto devote his life to writingnpoetry, he chose the practical coursenand instead trained to become a physician.nAt the University of Pennsylvania,nhis fellow students •were EzranPound, the poet H.D., and the painternCharles Demuth. For a while it lookednas though Williams might have a promisingnprofessional career. After interningnat the French Hospital in NewnYork City, he began a prestigiousnpediatric internship at Child’s Hospital.nWilliams’s sense of morality, however,nwas pitted against the practicesnof the hospital bureaucracy when henwas asked to sign his name to some falsifiedndocuments. Shortly thereafter henresigned on principle, returning to thenplace of his birth, Rutherford, New Jersey.nThere he practiced medicine andnwrote poetry for most of the remaindernof his life.nMost of Dr. Williams’s career—bothnas a physician and as a poet—was anstruggle. He was rarely more thannfinancially solvent, preferring to overlooknthe bills of his indigent patients.nFrom his patients, though, he tooknmany of the images and idioms for hisnpoetry. A champion of the Americannvernacular, Williams has been calledn”crude,” “primitive,” and “barbaric.” Innhis poem “Danse Russe,” from the collectionnAl Que Quiere, Williams portrayednhimself dancing:nnaked, grotesquelynbefore my mirrornwaving my shirt round my headnand singing softly to myselfn’I am lonely, lonely.nI was bom to be lonely,nI am best so!’nDuring the same year, 1917, T. S. Eliotnpublished “The Love Song of J. AlfirednPrufrock”:nNo! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor wasnmeant to be;nAm an attendant lord, one that will donTo swell a progress, start a scene or two,nAdvise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool.nDeferential, glad to be of use.nPolitic, cautious, and meticulous;nFull of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;nAt times, indeed, almost ridiculous—nAlmost, at times, the Fool.nIt was Eliot who got the laurels and thencritics’ praise while Williams wasntreated shabbily or ignored altogether.nWallace Stevens called Williams “antipoetic”;nother critics said his style wasn”an exercise in spiritual hygiene” and “anremarkable, but sterile sport.” The Englishncritic Austin Warren pronouncednhim “energetic, breezy, uncouth.” Thenconsensus seemed to be that Williamsnmight have been a good poet, but henwas not much of a thinker.nVjritical opinion, however, seems tonchange nearly as regularly as Paris feshion,nand Williams is currentiy more innvogue than Eliot. Though Williams’snwork was neither uniformly good, uniformlynbad, nor uniformly mediocre, hisnbiographer and critic, Paul Mariani,nnnseems unable to appreciate his poetrynexcept through praisiag it. And at timesnMariani oflfers neither praise nor evenndiscussion of strucmre and symbolism.nOne of Williams’s early poems was writtennin response to Pound, who had accusednhim of wasting his life:nAny way you walknAny way you turnnAny way you standnAny way you lienYou have pissed your lifenFrom an effectual foolnbutting his head blindlynagainst obstacles, becomenbrilliant—focusingnperforming accurately tona given end—nBy way of comment, Mariani says; “Hen[Williams] overheard some kids playingnball in the streets and singing the poem’snrelrain and he had married that tauntingnrepetition to Pound’s accusations.”nThe biographer is .sometimes as insensitivenas the poet has been accused ofnbeing, particularly in his effort to portraynWilliams as a likable fellow. Dr. Williamsnwas an irascible, cranky, and sometimesncoarse man. He referred to Eliot as thatn”s a—,” Hart Crane as a “crudenhomo,” and Laura Riding as a “prizenbitch.” He was feirly indiscriminate,nthough not indiscreet, in his several extramaritalnaflairs. He avoided one nearnaflair with a German baroness/dadaistnsculptress only because she told himnshe had syphilis. When the baronessncontinued her pursuit, Williams boughtna punching bag to practice on should henhave to resort to physical blows withnher. A few months later, the practicenpaid off when Williams flattened thenbaroness with a pimch to the mouth.nWhile Mariani seems to find this behaviornquite acceptable, he laults Williamsnon another count: “he really didnadmire her ability to survive and to eatnlife whole. But he could not, could not,nbring himself to go to bed with her.”nLike Joan Givner, Paul Mariani is a littlentoo much in awe of his subject to give itnthe critical treatment it deserves. Dn- — – ^ ^nJuly 1983n