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Oxford Reference

Williams, William Carlos

Book 1 introduces two aspects of the city: the river and the park beside it. The central feature of the book is the waterfall of the Passaic River, which is at the heart of the city. Paterson was in fact located to take advantage of the ample waterpower of the falls. Alexander Hamilton planned the city because he realized that textile and other manufacture would flourish there; it was the first factory town in the United States. The falls represent, for the poet, the failure of language that is documented again and again in book 1. The crashing of its waters are the sounds of speech, but those sounds are chaotic and indistinguishable. People cannot talk to one another, or if they do talk it is to no effect. Words do not work:The language, the language  fails themthey do not know the words  or have notthe courage to use them.

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