Joel Duncan holds a postdoc in American Studies at the University of Konstanz. This article forms part of his book project, Poetic Drive: Experimental American Poetry in the Age of Automobility. He is also coeditor of a special issue of Women’s Studies on “Eileen Myles Now” (2022).
“Rolls Rough”: William Carlos Williams on the Thrills and Ills of Automobility
William Carlos Williams has consistently been coupled with automobiles both in the popular imagination and in his scholarly reception. In Jim Jarmusch’s 2016 film Paterson, Adam Driver’s character drives around Paterson, New Jersey, writing and reading poetry, not least that by Williams. The wonderful Voices & Visions documentary on Williams, aired on PBS in 1988, begins with a driver on the open road who then stops to write poetry on his “William C. Williams, M.D.” prescription pad. The coupling of driving with the long poem Paterson (1946–1958), which Jarmusch’s film solidifies, is anac