The Outlaw Life

running, reading, blogging, loving

[13] “The Red Wheelbarrow”


“So much depends/upon // a red wheel/barrow // glazed with rain/water // beside the white/chickens.”

“The Red Wheelbarrow” was written by William Carlos Williams, the son of an English mother and a Basque/Puerto Rican mother. He became both a writer and a practicing physician who was, heard it told, besties with Ezra Pound. He championed the Imagist movement, which relies on sharp, concrete images written in a highly concentrated, suggestive style. The goal of the movement, and the goals of Williams, were to reveal that there are “no ideas but in things”.

The poem is a great example of just how much power the Imagist movement’s poetry could carry with it, as the poem is composed of almost entirely concrete nouns that, framed as they are, suddenly suggests a great deal of imaginative possibility. Perhaps the best part of the poem, to me, and the reason I decided to write about this poem, are those first few introductory words: “so much depends/upon”. I mean…wow. To me, that shifts the poem right from the start, and suddenly we are wondering why so much depends on these things. And does the wheel barrow matter because it’s red? Or the rain? Because it’s wet, or because it’s rain? What about the chicken? Or, somehow, is it some combination of the three?

I believe that, when we ask “why”, we open the door for new narrative possibility – and W.C.W. has done that for us from the first stanza.

SIDENOTE: I’m a happily married lady and all. But I do just have to say – William Carlos Williams wasn’t too bad of a looker, back in the day (avert your eyes now if author pictures totally throw off your whole vibe):


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[10] “Funeral Blues”

524417Written by W.H. Auden, “Funeral Blues” is one of my absolute favorites by the poet.

He was my North, my South, my East and West/ My working week and my Sunday rest/ My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;/ I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

This sad and demonstrative poem originally contained far more political pomp-and-circumstance, leading it to be read far more as a kind of mourning for the death of a state official. However, with the edits present in the version of the poem linked above (the predominantly published version after 1936), it reads far more romantically, and has some definite homosexual underpinnings, although this feeling may just originate from the fact that Auden was a male and this poem speaks of a male subject as the love object.

The first stanza is basically composed of prime directives, orders of things to be halted after the death of the “He” (“stop all the clocks”; “silence the pianos”). These kind of mundane detailsĀ  convey a kind of practical sorrow, of the immediacy of pain that refuses to be delayed or ignored. After that, however, we move into requests that are the complete and direct opposite of practical requests. The poem and poet reach for a level of sorrow that stretches to the far expanses of the universe (“the stars are not wanted now; put out every one,/ pack up the moon and dismantle the sun”). The reason I love this poem, however, is because the narrator of the poem invites commands others to join him in his pain. It’s consuming him, as well as the reader, and it’s hard to walk away and shake that sadness from your mind, not without time separate from it.

Rating: OMFGZ!

It’s a powerful poem, and any fans of the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral will most likely recognize the following scene. It’s a really heartfelt reading of the poem by a homosexual character speaking at the funeral of his lover. It’ll make you do one of these:


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