Death the Barber by William Carlos Williams | Book Review

William Carlos Williams’ poetry volume, Death the Barber, is probably one of those collections that I will remember for a while and most likely return to. As I am writing poetry myself, his poems represent a source of inspiration. My first encounter with his work was during my university years, when our teacher included his poems in the mandatory reading list for our American Poetry course, alongside Gertrude Stein, E.E. Cummings and Ezra Pound – which I am grateful they did as he is the literal embodiment of Modernism and Imagism.

Williams is without a doubt one of the outstanding contemporary poets: he succeeds at transposing multiple features of Modernism and Imagism in poems comprised in Death the Barber. As a leading poet of the Imagist movement, his pieces are freed from the historical weight of his predecessors and previous literary movements and embrace reality in order to make a contact with the tangible, what can be reached, and is rather physical than metaphorical. In this sense, symbolism and rudimentary metaphors are either rejected or replaced with raw individual experience. Predominantly reverberations of the image, Williams’ poems are centred around visual representations of deep personal emotions. As a representative of Imagism, avoiding generalities, adopting a colloquial language and precise imagery is definitory for his poems as well as soft consonants.

While these features are reflected in most of the poems included in the collection, I do have a couple of favourites and these include The Last Word of My English Grandmother, The Bare Tree and Dedication for a Plot of Ground. If anything, the last two lines of the latter one are definitory of what we can only assume his purpose was when writing poetry: “If you can bring nothing to this place/but your carcass, keep out”. The book was sent to me by Libris, which I am grateful for.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Title: Death the Barber
Author: William Carlos Williams
Publication Date: 2018
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Format: Paperback|56 pages

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