Last Saturday I taught a day-long class on William Carlos Williams, and so for the week before I'd been thinking a lot about what it meant to be "modern" in his day. I talked to my class about the usual "modern" suspects in both America and Europe and internationally, about all of those writers of poetry and fiction who wanted, in Pound's words, to "make it new." I talked about modern painting-- the Armory show and the influence of Cubism. Of course we also talked about Williams' urgency in trying to bring an American idiom -- a more immediate diction with phrases that reflected, in his view, a more American sense of breath, as opposed to an English prosody -- into our poetry. This is all old news, but what struck me once again, as it had when I was a young poet, was the fierce clamor of the many poets of the day all seeking to break the tired molds, conventions and traditions, and to offer their historical, literary moment a fresh view of what language could do in poetry. My favorite single poem reflecting on this project remains a poem not by Williams, but by Wallace Stevens, "Of Modern Poetry."