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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