House Calls With William Carlos Williams, MD
Publication Date: August 2, 2008
Enter your zip code below to find indies closest to you.
“When they ask me, as of late they frequently do, how I have for so many years continued an equal interest in medicine and the poem, I reply that they amount for me to nearly the same thing.”
—William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams made his mark on the world as a legendary modernist poet, but he filled an equally significant role on a local level in his native New Jersey—as a doctor. Over the first half of the twentieth century, Williams built a successful practice as a pediatrician and OB-GYN, and while some of his patients made the journey to his office in the affluent town of Rutherford, many more were privileged with house calls.
House Calls with William Carlos Williams, MD is a collaborative effort by child psychiatrist Robert Coles and photographer Thomas Roma to retrace Dr. Williams’ rounds, which included patients from Rutherford all the way north to Paterson. Coles, an early fan of the doctor’s literary work, befriended Williams as a young man, and in the early 50s was invited to come along on many of these outings; his experiences are recounted here in engaging first-person anecdotes. Roma was given access to the patients’ addresses in 2001, and plotted a route he would travel with his camera over the course of the next five years; his quiet, contemplative photographs of the streets Dr. Williams walked provide a striking visual counterpoint to Coles’ text. Selections of Williams’ poetry are reproduced throughout, including excerpts from his five-part epic, Paterson. The result is an immersive experience, in which the reader may travel side-by-side with Williams, listening and learning from the famed poet, doctor, and mentor.
Robert Coles is a physician and writer, who compiled and edited The Doctor Stories of William Carlos Williams (New Directions, 1984) and wrote William Carlos Williams: The Knack of Survival in America (Rutgers University Press, 1982).
Thomas Roma, a two-time recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and the International Center of Photography in New York. He is the author of five powerHouse titles: Enduring Justice; Show & Tell; Sicilian Passage; In Prison Air, and last year’s On Three Pillars: Torah, Worship, and the Practice of Loving Kindness, The Synagogues of Brooklyn. He is also the author of Sanctuary (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), Higher Ground (Distributed Art Publishers Inc., 1999), Sunset Park (Smithsonian Books, 1998), Found in Brooklyn (W.W. Norton & Co., 1996), and Come Sunday (Museum of Modern Art/ Abrams, 1996). Director of Photography at Columbia University, Roma lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.