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William Carlos Williams

(17 September 1883 – 4 March 1963 / New Jersey)

The Red Wheelbarrow


so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Bronze Star - 5,727 Points Frank Avon (9/17/2014 3:18:00 AM)

    Williams would probably be amazed if he knew that his reputation as a poet is so dependent upon two of his imagistic poems, this on and This Is Just To Say. For me, they are both truly great poems, among the best by US poets.

    Once I was dictating this poem from memory to a class. Except that I quoted the last two lines as beside the five white / chickens. When a student pointed out my mistake, I realized the picture in my mind was so vivid that I could not forget that, in my imagination, there were five white chickens. (Well, there's also the assonance with beside and white.) I'm not sure whether I should attribute this to the vividness of the poem or the strength of my imagination. Even today, many years later, I cannot recite the poem without seeing in my mind five white chickens picking and pecking on the ground beside the red wheelbarrow. Would that I could just once write eight such memorable lines. (Report) Reply

  • Bronze Star - 5,451 Points * Sunprincess * (6/18/2014 11:40:00 AM)

    ............oh this piece is so imaginative....a red wheelbarrow definitely means someone is going to do some work..... (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 4,752 Points Lorraine Margueritte Gasrel Black (4/1/2014 3:56:00 PM)

    Very good imigery... almost haiku like..I studied this poem in college many years ago and its image has always stayed with me...it's true it gives many meanings to the readers but the poet could have had many ideas, too...many of these poems have a secret meaning..does only the poet know the truth? That's the beauty of writing abstract poetry...the space between the words...and the solid picture defines..we see what we want to see and feel as we want... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Alyssa Newton (2/27/2014 7:34:00 PM)

    We had an assignment just recently in my english class for this poem. We had to take the image painted by Williams and create a story around it. It was purely inventive, and despite the consistent image, no two stories were alike. I think that's the real point of this poem, and imagist poetry in general. Even all writing in general, come to think of it. Sure, it may be about something specific, or it may mean something particular to the writer. That will always be a thing. But what is important is that it means something to the reader, and moreso that it means something different to every reader. So I think the utter abstractness of this poem is because we are supposed to give it our own meaning. We are supposed to make it our own. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Myles Sweeney (1/7/2014 9:23:00 PM)

    Possible, Billy. However, W.C Williams had a child who was ill. As he sat in the child's room, he could look out the window and see a red wheelbarrow in the yard. As the child's condition worsened, he convinced himself that if the child could only get well enough to walk from his bed to the wheelbarrow without help, he would be okay...

    The child eventually died, so I think the poem is about how we attach such importance to such arbitrary things in our lives to mask what really matters. We try to fool everyone, and in the end we only fool ourselves. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Myles Sweeney (1/7/2014 9:21:00 PM)

    Possible, Billy. However, W.C Williams had a child who was ill. As he sat in the child's room, he could look out the window and see a red wheelbarrow in the yard. As the child's condition worsened, he convinced himself that if the child could only get well enough to walk from his bed to the wheelbarrow without help, he would be okay...

    The child eventually died, so I think the poem is about how we attach such importance to such arbitrary things in our lives to mask what really matters. We try to fool everyone, and in the end we only fool ourselves. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Billy Sheppard (12/7/2013 9:53:00 AM)

    This poem is a kind of test. I don't believe I have the definitive answer. I don't believe there is a definitive answer to the poem, but I do believe the meaning is in the nature of a puzzle. As in any puzzle, we know that we must have all that is necessary to know the answer. It is the nature of a poem to have all the right words. A poem is just right. It's self contained. The form of the poem is the key, but WCW violates the form in an subtle way as the poem progresses. I am content to love this poem. My solutions are nearly adequate to account for my love of the poem, but not quite. I believe the answer that fits the form and content perfectly is that WCW has found in a tiny collection of words a trap to set my mind and heart on a delightful search in to the meaning and value of poetry. The form of this poem continues to evolve and to violate my expectations like a great piece of repetitive music which imperceptibly alters into a very different thing. I can't reduce the poem into a smaller form. I cannot solve it. I can love it and it is short enough to live in it's unsolved state as an object of pure poetic joy. It is its own best explanation. It's just right. I love it. The answer to why I love it is the poem itself. Never ever answer the question, Why do you love me? That question is always a trap.

    [Beside the white is fun because it makes me think of enjambment. The syllable counting is fun because it almost fits but never quite what I expect. So much depends is fun because it establishes high stakes. All of the time spent analyzing this poem is fun to me, and all of it is a contemplation of the nature and importance of poetry itself. When in doubt, I have been told, a poem is about poetry. Even Shall I compare thee to a summer's day... is about a poem. I think that. And other stuff like that. I don't know why this poem has special meaning, but I know that it does. I know that because I feel it.] (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Ju Ro (7/7/2013 9:56:00 AM)

    The wheelbarrow is parents, the rainwater, their tears from raising children, represented by the chickens. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Lauren Robinson (6/9/2013 12:44:00 PM)

    this poem is about the structure not the content the words are just functional they hold no meanign for the poet (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Robert Ensor (4/25/2013 9:37:00 AM)

    Dear Alec Whitthohn,
    What a wonderful critique of The Red Wheelbarrow.
    Perhaps you would do me the honour of looking at
    my Voice of Buddha and leaving your comments
    (however critical!) .
    Yours sincerely,
    Robert Ensor. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Alec Witthohn (3/17/2013 9:57:00 PM)

    First let us analyze the structure notice the three one grouping of words and how each single is two syllables and how each triplet is either four or three and that the four's are on the outside of th poem on so much depeneds and beside the white you can think of this as a sort of way of marking the introduction and conclusion. What one must take from this is that it is an imagism and is only meant to intesify the experience as if painting a mental still life, Williams has no intention of metaphor or symbol, though many can be drawn. The introduction pulls us to beg the question what does so much depend on. This is a way of setting the insensity of the piece and creating certain way of looking at the situation, which Williams believes closely aligns with mental experience. Next we can look at the four middle lines or the body, comprised with the three sylable top lines. We notice wheelbarrow and rainwater have been spliced through enjambment in doing this Williams changes our perception once again by compartmentalizing singular objects the wheelbarrow is thought of as three seperate enitties the redness, the wheel, and the barrow, similarly the rainwater becomes rain and water. On the conclusion however Williams toys with us using white chickens in a similar way, however they are seperate words by this juxtaposition he enlightens us to question the formation and composition of words.

    There are only for groups shall we call them rather than stanzas as Williams would have been adverse to such a term, writing it off as an old device in forming sonnets and ballads, which he stated were dead and inappicable to the growth of poetry in modern times. The simplicity of this poem is not accidental, but rather speaks to the simplicity of the scene, one can be sure that this must be a simple farm scene consisting of chickens and a wheelbarrow, suggesting that the experience, experience being the overall goal in the portrayal of many of his poems, must have been simple as well. The color choice speaks to this simplicity as well; red and white are not ellaborate color choices they are fairly simple, rather than crimson and ivory. Along with simplicity Williams' color choice intesifies the mental image and experience of the poem, when one thinks simply of red one thinks of pure red and likewise pure white, hightening ones senses. The last notable diction choice is the word glazed, which creates intensity as it suggests a spritzing of light upon the entire poem and by extension our mind becomes glazed as well.

    This poem is far more of a neo-aestheticism rather than neo-symbolism, one can think of this as a realism poem though there are very few and it doesn't quite fit the catagory. The Red Wheelbarrow speaks to morals, values, ideologies and ideas in a diffrent light, through structure, emphasis, and diction rather than metaphor and symbol. This is the ideal of the poem and William Carlos Williams; to create something new and diffrent he created moments, word paintings, experiences, he created Imagisms. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Richard Haskell (8/22/2012 2:18:00 AM)

    So much depends upon establishing of our sense of place, our familiarity with our own world, synced as it were into your own constant; our grounding. We all do this in terms of ritual or routine; doing what needs to be done almost unnoticed, allowing us an unquestioned sense of place, that sense of ease that comes with knowing our own world. Much depends upon the specific details of our world, our conscious and unconscious familiarity with certain arrangements of the things of this world. There are red wheelbarrows glazed with rain water besidewhite chickens for all of us, and we just call them something different. This poem recognizes this, as we all do who read and enjoy this poem, it is fundamental - that recognition which places man in his world - and how much depends upon it. Richard Haskell (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Sarah Carroll (7/29/2012 1:29:00 PM)

    Definitely love this poem. I remember my English class in high school spent two days just coming up with various meanings on what it meant and you wouldn't believe the different variations!

    I did find a great explanation for The Red Wheelbarrow here which helped solidify my beliefs on it's meaning www.writerslobby.com/poetry-corner/the-red-wheelbarrow-by-william-carlos-williams

    Overall though this is defintiely my favorite William carlos Williams poem! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Allison Helman (7/1/2012 8:32:00 PM)

    so much depends
    upon

    a pediatrician

    ministering to a sick child

    whose prized red wheel
    barrow

    and white chickens

    also must wait. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Ahmad Shiddiqi (3/16/2010 2:18:00 PM)

    nothing to something. ideas to things. imagination to real. complicated to simple.mere to important. word style to pictorial style.WCW transformed a poem into another artistic level. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Sam Peterson (3/8/2010 12:43:00 PM)

    You guys are clearly missing the true meaning of this poem. This poem is clearly about a mouth. Yes, a mouth. The red wheelbarrow represents a tongue and the white chickens are the teeth and the glazed rain water is saliva. So much depends upon our need to eat food. Food is a necessity for life. Also, in many cultures the mouth is a romantic spot. This shows all that depends on the mouth. (Report) Reply

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