William Carlos Williams: The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens

“The Red Wheelbarrow” is probably one of William Carlos Williams’ best known poems. For a poem of such simplicity, it displays a uniquely American “truth.” According to the biographical section prior to the poems, Williams was a physician in a small American town. His work references the stuff of his life and he uses his local experiences to suggest a certain social experience. Williams’ wrote “no ideas but in things” and his poetry reflects that connection (2009). By referencing the wheelbarrow and chickens, he provides a sort of tableau of Americanism that still has room for individual interpretation. In my head I see an image of a red wheelbarrow covered in rainwater, next to chickens, almost like a photograph. The rest seems to be up to the reader’s interpretation.

In the biography section, Wallace Stevens is quoted as writing: “not ideas about the thing but the thing itself” (2009). How do the poetic styles of Stevens and Williams compare? Were their aims similar?

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