Poem of the Week
Updated: Jan 28
The Red Wheelbarrow
By William Carlos Williams - 1883-1963
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
Analysis By Dr Pragya Suman
The Red Wheelbarrow was written by an American poet Williams Carlos Williams in 1923. He was a physician by profession and never neglected his job. One Day he was treating his patient and suddenly he peeped out of his window. He saw a red wheelbarrow standing among rain and beside it there were white chickens. All of it made a visual effect upon him and in it’s reaction he wrote sixteen words aligned in a single line. Here we see unusual line breaks which are manifesting a surface tension in outer fabric. Williams was a friend of Ezra pound who was propounder of the imagist movement in the literary world. The red wheelbarrow is a nice example of imagist poetry just like ‘In a Station of the Metro’ by Ezra Pound. Both poems are similar in visual effects but in Williams' poem the surface tension is captivating which differs from ‘In a Station of the Metro’ Williams was interested in avant garde, experimentation, cubism and futurism.
In this poem we see colors rather than shapes are taking major part in producing pictorial effect. Red wheelbarrow is standing and white chickens are moving. Two different effects of raining is manifesting an aesthetic effect. An unilateral effect upon the nonliving wheelbarrow is that it is glazing. This natural pictorial ground produces visual effect upon the poet's eye and it raises many notions, imaginations and curiosities. Effect could be a subjective thing and here we can only make premonitions of what Williams thought and what were ‘so many things’ about which he was thinking at that moment.
Was it all about physical labour? Wheelbarrows are used in farms by laborers and manual workers. Here white chickens are indicating farm houses. Physical labourers have been always receding in comparison to intellectual works. Poet could be aware and sympathizing to workers though he himself belonged to the intellectual profession. Whole day he treated his patients and at night he holed out in his study. His wife used to hear the sound of typewriter, and Williams crafted poetry at night.
Here the condensed effect relies on seeking ‘so much depends’!