The celebrated poet behind such classics as “The Red Wheelbarrow” and “This Is Just to Say” presents a collection of essays about North American history.
In the American Grain is, as William Carlos Williams said, “a study to try to find out for myself what the land of my more or less accidental birth might signify.” Although Williams wrote poetry and prose—and was a doctor—he was not a historian. In this book, he applies a fresh, lyrical perspective to moments in America’s past. Beginning with the bloody Erik the Red, discoverer of Greenland and father of Leif Erikson, Williams revisits episodes from history like the destruction of Tenochtitlan, the Mayflower ship’s journey to America, and the founding of Quebec, as well as the expeditions of explorers such as Christopher Columbus, Juan Ponce de León, Hernando de Soto, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Samuel de Champlain. He then moves along to events like the Salem witch trials, Daniel Boone’s discovery of Kentucky, and Aaron Burr’s romance with Jacataqua. He also discusses important figures such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Edgar Allan Poe, and Abraham Lincoln.
By deconstructing America’s history and rebuilding it with a poet’s voice, Williams created “a fundamental book, essential if one proposes to come to terms with American literature” (The Times Literary Supplement).