In Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, a poet named Paterson drives a New Jersey Transit bus in Paterson, New Jersey:
Because Paterson [the movie] regards these people with the same kindness and interest as its main character, we too become interested in them and their world. And Paterson seems to find something to praise or encourage around every corner — partly because his idol is William Carlos Williams, the New Jersey poet who wrote a five-part epic poem titled — you guessed it — Paterson. Williams, a master of imagism (a movement in poetry that strove for clear language and precise description of images), intended the poem to be a sort of documentary of the place, and published it as five books between 1946 and 1958. (Williams also wrote the “The Red Wheelbarrow,” studied by American schoolchildren for decades.)
But Williams had another vocation: He was a physician, and chief of pediatrics at Passaic General Hospital for almost 40 years, a job requiring no small measure of attention and compassion. The interplay of vocations, both artistic and more quotidian, is a strong theme in Paterson: Everyone’s got something they do on the side to brighten the world, whether it’s chess tournaments or country music or acting or poetry.