Jump to most recent response

William Carlos Williams: The Red Wheelbarrow

So much depends

the red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

This is a poem that is probably so familiar now that it almost doesn't look experimental anymore. Yet when it was written in 1923, it probably didn't look to many of its readers even like a poem. It's usually seen these days as an example of Imagism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imagism) though in fact it was originally part of much larger poem/prose work called Spring & All.

It's not a difficult poem, in fact it's very easy to understand. Except, why does "so much depend" on the red wheelbarrow? It doesn't say, and leaves it up to the reader to speculate.

But what is striking about it is not just its simplicity - its rather zen-like, haiku-like observation of the world - but how "unpoetic" its subject matter is. Why write a poem about a red wheelbarrow? What's so poetic about a red wheelbarrow? The language is plain as a pikestaff and totally unliterary: how is this a poem?

Although modernism was ten years old at this time, it hadn't yet made much impact, and the book from which this came didn't get much attention until many years later. Nevertheless, it led the way for so much more experimentation in both America and Britain.

When I was teaching, I would introduce this poem and would still get the "But that's not poetry..." reaction. I still would, I suspect. Not only does it not rhyme nor have meter, but it doesn't appear to say anything.

And that is why it's still a good example of an "experimental" poem. It still causes arguments over the nature of poetry 90 years after it was written.

Thu, 18 Oct 2012 10:47 am
message box arrow
This is one I'm familiar with Steven - and I wouldn't argue re its poetic authenticity - in that it (as you rightly state) paints a "mind picture" for the reader. It also poses a question - rather like Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on A Snowy Evening" - "But I have promises to keep," etc.

Although why the white chickens would want to glaze a red wheelbarrow with rain - or how, is a little beyond my comprehension. (Maybe I am just thick!) :)

Thu, 18 Oct 2012 12:00 pm
message box arrow
Perhaps it means by as in 'next to' and perhaps you are pulling our leg Anthony :)

I like simplicity but I couldn't read too many poems like this. But then I've never liked piles of bricks either and those seem to have been a enduring piece of art. It seems to me that experimental poetry's first aim might be to surprise?
Thu, 18 Oct 2012 01:24 pm
message box arrow
The words of a poem are only the catalyst for the imagination of the reader. How many times have we all written with a profound meaning in mind, only for the work to be interpreted in a completely different way. This for me, is the beauty of poetry. Frustrating..... but beautiful.
Thu, 18 Oct 2012 01:36 pm
message box arrow
Isobel - he's not usually quite as spare as this - and also, it's part of a longer piece (Spring & All) so it's often read out of its original context.


will probably give a fuller picture of his poems.
Fri, 19 Oct 2012 11:16 am
message box arrow
Thanks for that link Steven - I'll check it out.

It probably helps if we can all try to understand each other's motivation. I find that my tastes in poetry are changing the more I read. I used to strive for perfect metre but I'm finding that I don't really like what I produce when I do that any more. I don't want the rum tee tum tee tum of perfect regularity - I've just got to find a way of achieving something I do want :) Putting a finger on flow when you don't have strict metre to adhere to, is a hard thing - for me the ineffable perhaps :)
Fri, 19 Oct 2012 06:17 pm
message box arrow

darren thomas

love it - the more you know about language - the more elaborate (you think?) it becomes.

Fri, 19 Oct 2012 10:12 pm
message box arrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

This copied from your link Steven. We have an indefinite article - "a" red wheelbarrow, and a "beside" rather than a "by." Now it makes perfect sense! Silly me . . .
Fri, 19 Oct 2012 11:45 pm
message box arrow
Oh let's call a spade a spade and a wheelbarrow a wheelbarrow.

It's still a poem about one inanimate object and a bunch of chickens whatever article you use...

It's never going to blow our minds - other than by its overt simplicity.

I did follow the link though Steven and found that, as you say, the rest of his work is not as 'spare' as this. In fact, some of it seemed quite dated. I appreciate that for his time he must have been quite groundbreaking though.
Sat, 20 Oct 2012 09:08 am
message box arrow
A "bunch" of chickens Isobel? Surely you mean brood, flock or peep . . . :)

Sat, 20 Oct 2012 10:03 am
message box arrow
:) How's that for minimal?
Sat, 20 Oct 2012 11:34 am
message box arrow
Thanks for the example.It`s an `imagist` effort, tending towards `succinct verse of dry clarity and hard outline`calling to mind sculpture (wheras `Symbolism` -for instance - was more inclined to call to mind music)

To be fair to it, the question should be: Is it?...and does it? Really, Steven, it doesn`t.

The first stanza `depends` whatever that may be? on the last three (a very precarious sculptural position) The last three outline succinctly an un-sculptural mix of wood, colour, water, and biological life...and (unforgivable for an Imagist) The word `glazed`...which completely ruins the sculptural - or hard - outline of it.(as does the biology and mobility of the `chickens)The poem is not a poem, even within the orbit of its own movement.

To deal with what one can make of it mentally:...One can mentally make anything at all from literally any block of typography in the world.But (crucially) what is made must be able to be inferred by what is in the poem by normally sane people and generally agreed by them.

No such inference is present in this poem...(It is not even a poem).

Verse libre is now old hat, and although some good poetry (usually very `spare` stuff) can still be written in it, and it is `releasing`for those who don`t have the mere `knack` of rhyme, it seems to me that what poets really need to re-discover today is the assistance of rhythm (if only to give all of those enthusiastic poets on here a sort of`beat` to play around with.

(Incidently, Steven, I found the the poem by Mallarme you blogged was `Symbolist`. If so, then that`bored` bit in it was probably the reason why they became known as the decadents)

Thanks for giving us something definite to talk about.
Sat, 20 Oct 2012 03:26 pm
message box arrow
In the "Writers'& Artists' Yearbook", the editor of "Poetry Review" writes that for three decades he has been publishing William Carlos Williams' poetry and the lines quoted above have been earning "between £27 and £35 per week over that period". Nice work if you can get it. The childish simplicity of the words don't do anything for me except convince me that some people can be persuaded to invest importance in anything. I am reminded of the fable of the King's(new) clothes...when only a small boy stood up and said what others wouldn't
- that he wasn't wearing any!
Sun, 21 Oct 2012 01:25 am
message box arrow
90 years after it was written it still causes arguments over 'what is poetry'. That's quite an achievement for eight lines of verse.

I see we've descended in double-quick time to "emperor's new clothes" territory. And here's me hoping for a rational discussion... Ah me, always so optimistic...

Who says what a poem is anyway? Critics? Teachers? "Tradition" (and who says which is the "true" tradition?)

Why do some people assume that because it "does nothing for them" that it must "do nothing" for other people as well?

I doubt very much that this poem was William Carlos William's best work (I think the opening poem of "Spring & All, "On the way to the contagious hospital", is much better.) But I think I love this poem more because it puts its two-line verse fingers up to all notions of what "poetry" is "supposed" to be.

It's like the first time I heard the Sex Pistols and thought, "Yes! that's what music's supposed to do." They weren't even the best punk band. But they blew all the musically-correct crap that was clogging the charts out the water. And there was so much dead in the water versification around at the time (anyone who's ever tried to read one of those awful Georgian poetry anthologies knows how dull poetry can get...)
Sun, 21 Oct 2012 11:46 am
message box arrow

darren thomas

I'm with Stevo on this - I've never really tried my hand at 'experimental' poetry - for a time i just wrote what i felt. Slowly, and on occasions rather too painfully, I became aware of the various techniques that some say only then qualifies a piece of writing to become a poem

Maybe I just want my poetry to sound and feel poetic - and when I say 'poetic' i probably mean something that stirs something inside me. To intrigue my sense of linguistic curiosity. If something appears so simplistic - take another look. You can always fill something with something else even if it appears to be full. The golf balls filling a jar type situation.

Maybe all the words were chosen at random by the author. I doubt it. The colours? Why those colours - and why the words that belong to more than one word class? Personally, it stirred something in me for more than one reason.

And i was there when the emperor got naked.

0/10 however for the author's parents imagination in the way of a son's name.

Sun, 21 Oct 2012 02:42 pm
message box arrow
OK - keeping it rational. Let me consider what is written."So much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens". This sequence of words could be taken out of context from some column in a country magazine: meaningless and inconsequential. So the writer cheats..chopping lines into a format that bears some resemblance to what we have long understood to be one of the main visual frameworks for poetry. Sorry, but hacking a line of prose in this way does not give it any mystical depth or importance. If it is any way "experimental", it is the writer experimenting with the reader's gullibility...and since nobody relishes being thought gullible or recognises it in themselves, the subject matter is elevated to some "beyond criticism" status. As I said elsewhere: nice work if you can get it.
Sun, 21 Oct 2012 07:45 pm
message box arrow
Well it feels rather like going over to the dark side, but I'm inclining to agree with Darren/Steven - shock horror - I can't believe it myself...

After reading some more of William William's work, it's obvious that he could have written in perfect Iambic Pentameter, had he chosen to. The fact that he didn't is interesting. This is someone not lacking in skill, who chose to experiment. We can't knock anyone for that, can we? We can maybe just agree to like or dislike the final product.
Mon, 22 Oct 2012 12:03 am
message box arrow
Fair enough Isobel. If I were to write something like "So much depends upon a white lavatory bowl glazed with urine beside the flying geese" and chop it into something akin to recognisable form as an entree to poetry publishing, does that make it poetry for serious public appreciation?
Mon, 22 Oct 2012 01:09 am
message box arrow
William Carlos Williams is a discovery - thank you Steven. However, this 'poem' is problematic.

The problem can best be set out as a hypothesis - that the average educated English person would not be able to tell the difference between The Red Wheelbarrow and similar poems created in a random fashion.

To test the hypothesis, I created the following two 'poems' very quickly, virtually at random.

Too much flows

a blue hand

covered with snow

near the russet

Many threads link

the golden sand

iced with hoar

next to the orange

My wife (a language graduate) thought the starfish 'poem' was the real one though couldn't see much between them. No doubt the sample should be widened. I may give that a go and report back. If the hypothesis turns out to be statistically correct i.e. only about one third of people pick the 'correct poem' I think that would suggest that while the experiment was interesting, Williams (a fine poet in many ways) hasn't created anything of enduring value this time.
Mon, 22 Oct 2012 09:25 am
message box arrow
In many ways, it was a bit unfair to pick this particular poem, as it wasn't originally intended to be a free-standing poem in the way it has become. It was part of a much longer work, which I'm afraid isn't online in its entirety. This included prose and poetry mixed up.

It's funny that Darren doesn't think it of enduring value, as this was written 90 years ago and it still seems to have survived, and it still causes arguments. And obviously some rather fine imitations too. Mr Newbury's version could even be a commentary on Duchamp's Fountain, another artwork that seems somehow to have survived the ravages of time, despite being no more than a found toilet in a glass case...

A lot of this reminds me of the controversy that the Impressionists caused at the time they painted. "But they don't look finished...", "they're not about properly poetic subjects...", "they just create impressions, not proper paintings..." etc...

Nowadays, of course, the impressionists get their paintings onto plastic bags; but it's heartening that WC Williams is still causing trouble, years after he died.

Mon, 22 Oct 2012 10:34 am
message box arrow
'Why do some people assume that because it "does nothing for them" that it must "do nothing" for other people as well?'

Exactly, Steven!

While the individual words may not do it for some - this is history people! WCW and his Spring And All is a pioneer in Imagism - without people like him, poetry would be very very different than what it is today. I even doubt that Write Out Loud would exist and hardly any of us would be writing poetry.

Hats off to WCW I say!

You're lines were good Dave, but they don't have the impact of history behind them, or, in the day that The Red Wheelbarrow was published, the shock factor, or, even, disgust.

I agree Isobel - WCW could definitely have done iambic pentameter if he wanted to, and it's so interesting that he chose not to.
Mon, 22 Oct 2012 06:07 pm
message box arrow
Now I want to know what happened to the russet ducks!

: )

Mon, 22 Oct 2012 07:23 pm
message box arrow
So it wasn't 'hoar frost' that whetted your curiosity then John? Maybe that denotes some kind of artistic journey for you...

I'm feeling full of bonhomie at the moment. Writing 'poetry' of any description or quality has to be better than sitting watching telly. Surely?

I think we all need to need to be true to our inner voice - to write what we are comfortable with and what we ourselves like to read. The minute you start buying the books of some judge and emulating their style for some competition - that is when we lose our integrity as poets. 'Hoar frost' - not a bad word for the end product really :)
Mon, 22 Oct 2012 10:58 pm
message box arrow
I think you should shuffle your stuff up with the wheelbarrow one and we could have a game of experimental poetry crib.
Mon, 22 Oct 2012 11:18 pm
message box arrow
"LOL" tends to be overused these days, but I really did laugh out loud at that John - as so often with your twopennuth.
Tue, 23 Oct 2012 01:42 pm
message box arrow
This has been a most interesting and entertaining post -
whether "for" or "against". WOL doing what it does best.
Tue, 23 Oct 2012 02:35 pm
message box arrow
So, we can say this poem divides opinion. Doesn't almost all poetry? We can also say that for its time it was novel, controversial (still is) and perhaps a shock to the traditional. Is that enough to be able to rate is as a good poem?

It's short, unusual, doesn't really say anything or communicate anything, doesn't provoke any emotional response - and, is "experimental." Does its novelty value/experimental/mould-breaking/brevity/haiku-like qualities make it a good/worthy poem? Is that enough? Is it/was it particularly considered/crafted/clever? Will its fame/notoriety endure due to its place in poetic history - or the thought, effort and craft the writer used in creating it? Is it indeed a good example to use for those starting out in their poetry-writing journey?

Steven, you've held it up as an example of experimental poetry - probably one you like, but why do YOU think it's good?
Tue, 23 Oct 2012 04:15 pm
message box arrow
Hi All. Some of you may have seen this, It's my visual poetry tribute to WCW's Red Wheelbarrow poem as part of this summers Hebden Bridge Arts Fest.

Go here and click on 'News & Projects' then 'Hebden Bridge Arts Fest' and 'Pop up 5 Red Wheel Barrow'


(Couldn't get a direst link to work)

More excitingly perhaps you can actually hear WCW reading his poem if you click on the see larger image

(With permission of The Poetry Archive)
Tue, 23 Oct 2012 10:20 pm
message box arrow
A direst link...sounds very dire.

Love your new Website...although it's probably not that new, only I've been away for a while.


Tue, 23 Oct 2012 10:31 pm
message box arrow
"Is that enough to be able to rate is as a good poem?"

What constitutes a 'good' poem?

"a good/worthy poem"

Worthy of what? And isn't worthy just about the dullest thing a poem can be?

"the thought, effort and craft the writer used in creating it"

I've no idea how long it took him to write it; but I've read an awful lot too many awful poems where the effort expanded seems to have no impact on how good the poem is.

As to why I like it - I've already said so. Because after 90 years it's still a poke in the eye of 'serious' poetry.
Wed, 24 Oct 2012 10:27 am
message box arrow
I feel you are being more than a little disingenuous here Steven. You say:

What constitutes a 'good' poem?

And yet clearly you have your own ideas of what "good" and "awful" poetry is:

"... I've read an awful lot too many awful poems where the effort expanded seems to have no impact on how good the poem is."

Yet what you are suggesting is that WCWs poem's greatest attribute is that it is a challenge to "serious" poetry. It could be said that much poetry (good and bad) is a challenge to serious poetry. Does that quality, in itself, make for good poetry? Or do you simply enjoy the "notoriety" of being the Lucifer's Lawyer/polar opposition to the mainstream? Of course, you are entitled to like what you like and say what you feel; and if it's simply the perversity of your prediliction which you enjoy, then that's your choice and your right.
Wed, 24 Oct 2012 11:16 am
message box arrow
I don't think he's being disingenuous at all!

Winston - love your tribute, and your website is cool too.

And WCW reads his poem so playfully - what a tease that poem is - love it!
Wed, 24 Oct 2012 11:59 am
message box arrow
Hi Jade, Glad you liked the site and the WCW tribute. Quite a suprise when I found that a recording existed of WCW reading his own poem. Win
Wed, 24 Oct 2012 05:57 pm
message box arrow
I suspect that WCW was having a laugh! I recall that Sinatra - under unwanted pressure from his recording company, and aided/abetted by his famous songwriters, came up with a song called "There's a Flaw in my Flue". It was a tongue-in-cheek riposte to his persecutors -
sung with all the pathos and delicacy at the singer's
command - and it was received with rapturous gratitude for its qualities and published. If a really famous and serious interpreter of his art like Ol' Blue Eyes can indulge in such hanky-panky, why not WCW? The young will always go for the dig at established values and mores. That is, as always, the prerogative of youth,
an increasingly influential market but not necessarily a reliable yardstick, for the worth of any "product".
As for the lines in question, just stand back and value each word and its context. There is little to convince or reward the more mature mind.
Wed, 24 Oct 2012 08:52 pm
message box arrow
Don't you just love the intellectual snobbery of "little to convince or reward the more mature mind?" Would that be a mind that's open or one that's been barred shut to keep stuff that doesn't fit into your world view out? Personally I think I'd rather have the open mind of a child than the closed mind of so-called 'maturity'. If the conservative mind has no argument, all it does is attempt to belittle...
Thu, 25 Oct 2012 09:57 am
message box arrow
Anthony - the question of what constitutes 'good' of 'bad' poetry is always a difficult one and always will be I suspect.

I hesitate to say that it's just a matter of opinion. For me poetry is primarily an exploration of language; and it doesn't have to be 'about' anything. That doesn't mean it can't also be about anything (it's amazing how many people assume that there's some kind of opposition between form & function...that if you are interested in the formal arrangement of words on a page you can't be interested in meaning too..)

And it's about 'making new.' A lot of poetry, the poetry I don't much care for, merely restates what's already been said in a way that's already been done. In a more boring fashion than previously.

So I can only state what's good 'for me'. What's good for you is probably very different. And that's fine; or it should be.
Thu, 25 Oct 2012 10:24 am
message box arrow
I wish it were possible to show you the work in its original context, as part of a much longer serial work. I suspect it would be less puzzling. Or it might be more, because the prose in Spring & All is rather Gertrude Steinish...

I do think he wrote better poems, and ones that were more involved and a lot less 'objective realism'; 'Of Asphodel, That Greeny Flower', for instance: a meditation on love, and the atomic bomb. But he always used unflowery, unpoetic language.

It's a good thing I didn't post something from Bob Cobbing's ABC In Sound. That would really have set the cat among the pigeons...
Thu, 25 Oct 2012 01:32 pm
message box arrow
I note the accusation of "intellectual snobbery" but no response to the example set by a great singer with a worldwide reputation to consider who was able to indulge in a bit of convincing nonsense and get away with it. Good and bad poetry has its equivalent in good and bad songs - but even those in the business can get it totally wrong. As for "mature", it includes not being easily gulled and making a silk purse out of a sow's ear..like Sinatra's professional producers.
Thu, 25 Oct 2012 04:59 pm
message box arrow
So, about those ducks, let alone the starfish, where's the magic that makes it poetry....?

Thu, 25 Oct 2012 07:32 pm
message box arrow
I think it's rather sad, Mr Newbury, that you think that you have to protect yourself from the possibility that an 8 line poem that no-one has ever said was the deepest poem in history might 'fool' you.

Of course it's not meant to be serious, he wasn't writing Paradise Lost. He was writing about a red wheelbarrow. If he was making any kind of point, it was that red wheelbarrows are just as interesting and poetic a subject as anything else. I doubt very much that he had anything else in mind.

The thing that most of us who like this poem for is its simplicity, if I wanted to be all lit-crit I could talk about its 'democracy of language and image', and probably something to do with its cheek. Its importance in the history of poetry is not that it's the greatest poem in the world, but that it makes us smile. As Wallace Stevens said a poem should, it gives us pleasure.

I'm sorry that you're so paranoid you have to imagine dark forces at work trying to fool you, when all the poem wants you to do is smile at the nice chickens.
Fri, 26 Oct 2012 09:59 am
message box arrow
Steve, I haven't read the thread yet, but I'm punching in to say that this is one of my all-time favorite poems. I remember clearly the first time I saw it, as a raw teenager, and my astonishment at its spareness, and then - how its sparsity began to expand - into idea after idea - a flood of relative ideas. The poem was a real impetus to my further poetic interests, a broadening of my young concepts that might have become circumscribed, and stultified. So much of value comes from what you bring to the poem yourself. 'Guided and/or discursive interpretation' can be an absolute waste of mental energy. I shall find time to follow through the comments later, to enjoy other views.
Sun, 28 Oct 2012 04:07 pm
message box arrow
SW - if merely challenging the worth of the sentence in question(and without artificial "chopping", that's just what it is) amounts to paranoia, then what does that say about the reaction of its champions? Intellectual snobbery reared its head in a previous entry. I suggest that it is more accurately defined as investing something with a profundity it does not possess, a height it does not attain, and an importance it does not merit. If I want to smile, I turn to the real thing - like Tom Lehrer or Spike Milligan. Finally - and my own last word on the subject: if some unknown (let's call him Fred Smith) had written the words under discussion, I think we know the likely outcome. Zilch!!Cheers.
Sun, 28 Oct 2012 04:31 pm
message box arrow
I'm afraid I can't see anywhere where I've invested it with a profundity it doesn't possess. Unless there's something profound about its very simplicity. I also suspect that at the time this was written, for most people, William Carlos Williams was effectively as well-known as your friend Fred Smith, except to a few people who liked that kind of thing.

I also said it made me smile - Tom Lehrer and Spike Milligan make me laugh. Though Spike can make me smile ruefully as well. It's a small poem among a much bigger work, and like Cynthia said, it can prompt other thoughts if you let it.

As for the paranoia, you're the one who thinks that somehow he's trying to pull the wool over peoples' eyes. Though considering the paltry material gains anyone gets out of poetry, I can't see how anyone would want to...

Without "artificial chopping" we wouldn't have any poetry, by the way. That's a large part of what poetry is, artifice. Whether it's a sonnet or a haiku, or free verse, it's still artificial.
Tue, 30 Oct 2012 09:28 am
message box arrow
So much depends upon/ the red wheel/ barrow

glazed with rain/ water

beside the white/ chickens

Well as you say, Steven, this is a small part of a whole, and yet there is a lot one can say about it.
It brings to mind impressionist painting, as Imagist poetry tends to do. Also it reminds me of some beautiful Japanese prints, with a focus on a very simple domestic scene.
There is a sharp colour contrast of red and white. There is texture in the rain glazed barrow. There is an implication of stillness in the barrow waiting for good weather to be made use of, and acting as a shelter perhaps for the chickens. It suggests a rural context.
I have not read the whole poem because I couldn't get the links to work. (I am crap at that).
The first line refers to an external context, by saying that this simply portrayed scene has much depending on it. This leaves a lot unexplained.
Does that mix of impressions make it a poem? Without naming names I could not find anything in the last few stretches of the WOL blog that was as readable, or providing such a clear image of a moment or a scene, that was not intruded upon by a kind of self conscious 'being a poet' kind of written construction that spoiled the experience of reading and put a kind of glaze between me and the message of the poem.
Imagism had a lot of aspirations, most of which its aspirants never reached, but it did ask the poet, in the way the haiku form asks, to simply provide the image without interpreting it for us. This was a very important point to make at a time when poetry was pretentious and over elaborate, and too precious. It is a good lesson for a poet. Just say what you are imagining, without telling us how to interpret it. This cuts out a lot of sentimentalism and patronising comment in the poem, and cuts to the chase.
Thats my view on this debate.
Tue, 30 Oct 2012 05:29 pm
message box arrow
Nail meet head. You've hit the nail on the head Frieda. Imagism, and in fact the whole modernist project, was as much about clearing the undergrowth, getting rid of what the poet Kenneth Koch called "Kiss-me-I'm-poetical junk" as it was about being 'new.'

Here's another one I've always loved:

To a Poor Old Woman

munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand

They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her

You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand

a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her

I love the repetition of "They taste good to her,"the way the line endings build up the emphasis. This is a poem from the American Depression years. His observation is at once dispassionate and compassionate. He doesn't turn her into a symbol (anymore than that red wheelbarrow): she is always and forever an old woman eating plums.

That tastes good to me.

Wed, 31 Oct 2012 10:20 am
message box arrow
My only sound eye Blinded and made ghastly by a minor eye op, I`m sitting in waiting to counter-terrify all the pestilent trick-or–treaters, but it`s teeming. So I got to thinking about The red wheelbarrow-and got it at last!...and felt that I should share it at once

It`s about the isolated, solitary wheelbarrowness of wheelbarrow – never before (or since) has the plain, existential, fact of wheelbarrow been set before the literary world in such pristine purity!

And it is red…red!..real, solid, down to-earth-red. Not the fleshy vegative red of Burn`s `Luv`, nor the dispersive fluidity of the Will`s `incarnadine`but a serviceable, working-class red that makes one feel that–if one could strike that wheelbarrow – it would sturdily ring forth the red flag.

And glazed! Was ever the runny liquidity of water semi-solidified into a a sculptural stillness like this is? And how aptly that glaze includes - not only the wheelbarrow – but also the very redness into the frozen artistry.

It is with amazement that one contemplates those chickens. The mere fact of ordinary living and breathing biological fellow-creatures like chickens being included into such a sculpturally perfect work of art can only fill one with gratitude.

And when one realises that what all this depends upon is placed above - and not suspended beneath – this wonderful poetry, one is lost in admiration of the genius that can combine such contrary positions into so powerful a poetic juxtaposition.

Shame on you for suggesting that the poem might not have been meant to be serious – are you blind man? Can you not see the world-shattering implications hidden in the sparcity of the presentation and simplicity of the words? Discern the mind-releasing freedom afforded by the refusal of the poet to offer a single clue? Are you so imprisoned by mere form and sense that you can look poetic liberty full in the face and refuse it?

Hang on, there`s a knock at the door…must be a trick-or-treater!
Fri, 2 Nov 2012 07:32 pm
message box arrow
Very good Harry. Or it's just about a wheelbarrow and maybe we should stop getting so overwrought about it.
Sat, 3 Nov 2012 10:34 am
message box arrow
I liked To a Poor Old Woman. Much more than poor old Wheelbarrow - to be honest, after all the discussion, there's not much to either like or dislike about that.
Sat, 3 Nov 2012 05:22 pm
message box arrow
Enough with the plums...what happened to the ducks?

: )

Sat, 3 Nov 2012 05:32 pm
message box arrow
Harry, I so wish I knew when you are serious and when you are having a seriously huge laugh at us all. That's the hitch with clever people - they can operate on so many different levels. Anyway, supposing I suppose you were serious - it was a very good analysis, laughing up your sleeve or not. Mixing it up with Tricking or Treating was perhaps a ploy to keep us 'unsecured'. Or maybe there really were ghoulies at your door, fact not premise.

But, you seemed very sincere about the eye problem. That is not a joke under any circumstance. I hope all is now well.

Freda, any comments from you are highly regarded by me. They are always well-considered and very apt to the 'argument'. Regards.
Sun, 4 Nov 2012 05:16 pm
message box arrow
`Just about a wheelbarrow`(JUST!)...W.C.Williams pours out his poetical heart trying to put before us the very essence of Wheelbarrowness and an avant-garde experimenter like yourself opines that it is `just` a wheelbarrow?

I think you knew, Stephen, that, far from being overwrought, I was having a bit of fun with what (on anyone`s reading) is a banal block of meaningless typography.(If the `meaning` actually was intended to be meaninglessness, then it is mere tautology...or - if the author meant us to be bewildered - a snobbish sneer at the ordinary poetry lover).

As for being clever, believe me,all the `cleverness` is on the other side. (About the eye, apart from ruining my fabulous good looks it`s okay. thanks for your kind concern)
Mon, 5 Nov 2012 12:21 am
message box arrow
"(on anyone`s reading)"

Why on 'anyone's reading'? Who is this 'anyone'? Is he related to the man on the Clapham omnibus, or the 'ordinary working man' the Daily Mail is always refering us to? The fictional 'common reader' of conservative criticism? Who is he? Is he (as I suspect) the person you see in the mirror every day?

You'll be muttering under your breath about 'modern beat combos' any day now.

Actually, your non-serious reading of The Red Wheelbarrow is probably a good reading of WCW's poetry in general. It is aimed at a celebration of the ordinary. He once said that he thought TS Eliot's The Wasteland sent poetry back to the lecture room.
Mon, 5 Nov 2012 10:22 am
message box arrow
Well it did!
Mon, 5 Nov 2012 10:49 am
message box arrow
So many words

on red


rusting now

a chocolate


Mon, 5 Nov 2012 12:49 pm
message box arrow
I see you've resurrected Dave Bradley's star fish - would that count as plagiarism?

I get the first 3 lines - they relate to this thread - but why the juxtaposition of rusting with chocolate? Chocolate melts, gets eaten by rats if the humans don't get it first. Unless you are talking colour...

I like your poem because it made me think.
Mon, 5 Nov 2012 01:45 pm
message box arrow


And here's me thinking that if ANYONE might understand this it would be you! Disappointed . . . :(
Mon, 5 Nov 2012 01:55 pm
message box arrow
For once, I don't mind being a disappointment - I have no experience of those kind of fish or fissures - I'm a clean, mean poetry machine :)
Mon, 5 Nov 2012 03:00 pm
message box arrow
This is just to say...
this discussion has been well-red
and, as were the plums,
was delicious.

Please forgive me.
Mon, 5 Nov 2012 03:08 pm
message box arrow
plumming the depths there Julian
Mon, 5 Nov 2012 07:23 pm
message box arrow
I like the poem. It has simplicity, ambiguity and imagery. It lets the reader do some work. I also have some chickens.
Thu, 8 Nov 2012 01:39 pm
message box arrow
But are they white ones Dave? And that chance throwaway comment of yours has made me see this poem in a whole new light... I've had an epiphany... brown chickens just wouldn't work - and why?

Blood and bandages - that's why!

Red wheelbarrow (glazed no less) - white chickens - the contrast is important.

My mum said that nurses never put together red and white flowers in a hospital - not when she was a nurse anyway - I daresay anything goes nowadays - it's not a nice combination. And yet in this poem the poet seems to weave these two colours together so artfully, lulling the reader into a false sense of security almost...
Thu, 8 Nov 2012 02:36 pm
message box arrow
Many hospitals do not allow visitors to bring flowers on to wards nowadays.

A Nurse
Thu, 8 Nov 2012 02:52 pm
message box arrow
Crumbs - I wouldn't want you nursing me Sid - I HAVE heard tales about standards in care reducing, but... I suppose next thing you know they'll be banning bleeding...then where will all the broken hearts go.

Excuse me from wittering - I have to keep myself entertained :)

I've had a thought for a new experimental poem.

So much depends

the bulging
colostomy bag...
Thu, 8 Nov 2012 03:20 pm
message box arrow
Flowers, and many other items intended to comfort and console the sick, are not allowed on many wards in an attempt to stem the rise in infection. Bleeding is allowed but only in Special Rooms.
Thu, 8 Nov 2012 04:09 pm
message box arrow
My chickens have featured on Match of the Day 2 - Not on the pitch I hasten to add. (Must put that on U tube). Currently we have 1 white, one brown and 1 cockerel. The rest have been taken by the fox. Don't get me started about foxes. Hunting's too good for 'em. I thought flowers were banned cos of they take in oxygen at night and produce CO2. Bleeding and hospitals I have had enough of for this week.
Still like the red wheelbarrow though.
Thu, 8 Nov 2012 07:21 pm
message box arrow
What do you mean SOME of the work...this piece of directionless nonsense makes the reader do ALL of the work.

I can well imagine Williams sitting behind his `poem` sniggering at our
Thu, 8 Nov 2012 11:06 pm
message box arrow
There is a path - somewhere inbetween the Red Wheelbarrow and the chickens maybe - that I like my poetry to take. Simple enought for a brain to enjoy at a leisurely pace but not so simple that you aren't challenged by it. That principle goes for performance as well as page poetry.

I've heard some really clever stuff recently, with probably all kinds of meanings on all kinds of levels. If it goes on for too long though - it becomes a pain, however good or clever it is. I think there's a lot of poets that could do with thinking about the pace of the audience - or maybe it's just me and my brain?
Fri, 9 Nov 2012 08:05 am
message box arrow

Really, Harry, you'll be mentioning emperor's new clothes next...

Fri, 9 Nov 2012 10:53 am
message box arrow
Is Mr Prestwich speaking from experience here? Does he know WCW's intentions at the time - or is this purely his own interpretation? You talked earlier about the poem's simplicity Steven, now it seems that an academic is de-simpifying and deconstructing it and ascribing purpose and intent, to a fairly deep level. I'd like to know WCW's view on this, and what was his intent on writing it, rather than someone's second-hand guesswork, otherwise it's just someone else telling us what we ought to think and take from the poem. And that, is simply opinion - and no more valid than anyone elses.
Fri, 9 Nov 2012 01:42 pm
message box arrow
Second hand guesswork, Anthony? Are you saying that the only person who can understand a poem is the person who wrote it? Everyone else is 'just' giving an opinion?
Fri, 9 Nov 2012 09:17 pm
message box arrow

Clarence Bailey

William’s self-published his first book of poems in 1909. It sold four copies. The remaining hundred copies were stored in an old chicken coop until they were lost in a fire ten years later. Wlliams described the lost poems as bad Keats. Nevertheless, he kept writing in between caring for the folk of Rutherford who were mostly indifferent to his poetry. He was awarded a Pullitzer prize in May 1963. Unfortunately, he died in March 1963. I don’t understand some people’s antagonism to his poetry. Do you want him stripped of the noun poet? Do you want his books shelved in special area of Waterstones labelled not poetry? Do you want those readers who enjoy his words re-educated in what true poetry is? I think of the poem as a painting, a moment captured and shared. As to the question -What does it mean? -well I could tell you what it means to me but I don’t want to because so much depends upon.. So why not read Frank O’Hara’s Why I am not a painter and decide he’s not a poet either.
Sat, 10 Nov 2012 07:03 am
message box arrow
I love your contribution Clarence - though if I were you, I wouldn't take us all too seriously - we like to bicker and spark off each other - we are like children round a dinner table, in a big unruly family.

I loved Frank's poem, though it took me to a site that then invited me to making a bean salad (eat your poem?). I somehow managed to restrain myself from that further act of spontaneous creativity :)
Sat, 10 Nov 2012 09:03 am
message box arrow
Fascinating stuff this! Not the Red Wheelbarrow, I mean this ongoing spat between poetry lovers all seeing a piece of work in a different way. We all love to give things a label don't we? Personally I think poetry is label-less or if not, very hard to label, just like music is beginning to be.
If the thread is about experimental poetry (whatever that label means) I can only relate it to my own personal efforts which I would "label" experimental too.
When I finally feel imbued with the wherewithal to sit down and write I do not know at the start what will happen when I get going. Is this an experiment?
Happily, I am content to finish work when I feel it is finished. Whether the reader gets it or not, I care not a fig.
I am not writing pop records or best selling books, so do not need to conform. Each one is different, ergo experimental.
Looking at this thread, which as most of the longer-running ones tend to do, has slumped into tub-thumping and lean but semi-aggressive jibes at each other, I can see no outstanding explanation.

Time for another experiment I think!
Sat, 10 Nov 2012 10:50 am
message box arrow
In my opinion poetry can be easily divided into a few simple categories
1. Poems I like but can't exactly explain why.
2. Poems I like and I can explain why.
3. Poems I am indifferent to
4. Poems I think are bad (and, if I think they are bad then they are)
5. Poems that are punted as poems but just aren't really poems at all.

Can anybody suggest any more categories?


PS Red Wheelbarrow is category 1, as is most of TS Eliot
Sat, 10 Nov 2012 11:14 am
message box arrow
I don't think I'm talking about "understanding" here Freda, more intention. Mr Prestwich is asserting, in his own academic way, what WCW's intentions were in writing the piece. How, without consulting WCW, can he possibly know? We all bring our own "understanding" to the poem, and as we are all individuals each of those understandings will be different. It flummoxes me somewhat when any "authority" conjures up an essay on a poem imbueing it with various attributes which the poet may, or may not have intended. This has been held up as, in essence, a simple imagist poem and purely a portrait of an observed scene - rather like a photograph. There's nothing wrong with that at all, but if that's what it is (and by general consensus it seems to be) a long-winded, letter-by-letter analysis many times longer than the work itself seems to make a nonsense of this. On the one hand it is lauded for its simplicity, yet on the other for it ever-so-subtle and complex unseen nuances. All I am wondering is, is it the former, the latter - or, in an inexplicably contradictory way, both? If so, I remain none the wiser for the reams of explanation.
Sat, 10 Nov 2012 11:45 am
message box arrow
But Anthony, Mr Prestwich doesn't talk about the poet's intentions, he repeats what Ruth Padel has said about the actual words in the poem, how the language is used to make some aspects be emphasised more than others. He is doing stylistic analysis, which for all its academic sounding name is just a close look at how the structure of language is being used to make layers of meaning happen.
The point the imagists were making was that what appears to be a simple one-layer image has resonances and evokes many other meanings depending on our own shared experiences. Many people like to examine what layers of meaning a poem holds for them, and some enjoy looking closely at how the nuts and bolts of language- mundane things like nouns and verbs, conjunctions, patterns of all kinds- produce effects in their mind when they read.
How beautiful it is to observe what seems like a very simple scene, and realise that we appreciate it because of layers of meaning it evokes in us.
Sun, 11 Nov 2012 11:58 pm
message box arrow
Quite, Frieda. There is nothing about 'intention' in that article at all.

The intention of the artist is in any case irrelevant. What's important is the text as we have it.

And as I know 'Mr. Prestwich' personally, I'm sure he'd be laughing into his tweed jacket at being called 'academic...'
Mon, 12 Nov 2012 11:12 am
message box arrow
"I studied English at Queens’ College, Cambridge, and Merton College, Oxford."

I think, by most standards, that's fairly academic?

My point is, that on the one hand the poem is being held up as simplicity itself - and that's what it's remarkable for, on the other hand all kinds of linguistic attributes are being ascribed to it - whether intentional (by the author) or not. If we don't know what the author intended, then this seems to be simply guesswork. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. If people want to read something into any written work then that's their prerogative and fine with me. What I don't get is how it can be both simple and oh so complex at the same time?
Mon, 12 Nov 2012 02:15 pm
message box arrow
Regarding this particular piece of `text as we have it` could somebody (anybody?) please tell us the levels of meaning they get from it?

If its meaning is meaninglessness could they answer the question:...so...what?

Far from being mere uninterested piece of stylistic
analysis, Prestwich`s article tells us that the piece is beautiful, that it is highly artful, that it makes things flow, and that it courts and overcomes bathos...(all to do with the poem`s intention).

Come to think of it, Bathos is what we are all engaged in when we talk seriously about this this piece of obvious non sense.
Mon, 12 Nov 2012 04:43 pm
message box arrow
Nothing has any inherent meaning without context.

And, with that gnomic observation...I will withdraw!

: )

Mon, 12 Nov 2012 07:33 pm
message box arrow
"I think, by most standards, that's fairly academic?"

I would say that it takes rather more than a university degree (even at Oxford & Cambridge) to be 'academic' - a career as a university lecturer/researcher who regularly publishes articles in academic magazines is what's required, surely, not just a lifetime as a teacher in a boy's school and a lifetime reading books? (I've got the latter qualification - does that make me academic?)

As for the question of intention, showing what the poem does is not the same as 'intention.' He may or may not have intended all that; in fact, I suspect he didn't, because I don't know any poet who's that conscious of what they're doing when writing a poem. They write what they write because it 'feels right'. Then along comes Ruth Padel or Edmund Prestwich to say that's what they're doing, and they say, "Well, I guess so. But I wasn't aware of it at the time."

Tue, 13 Nov 2012 09:39 am
message box arrow
Crikey is that the time already?
Wed, 14 Nov 2012 10:13 am
message box arrow
Things I have learnt from this discussion:

A piece of writing, or any created object, becomes poetry at the creator’s assertion.

Anything can be deemed to be poetry, therefore everything is potentially poetry.

Something written for its “antipoetic” simplicity can become poetry by the very nature of its notoriety.

Simplicity is deceptive, in that it can be proven to be complex.

Those who advertise their top-level academic backgrounds prominently in their own potted biographies do not wish to be seen as academics.

That I am obviously ill–equipped to understand any of this, therefore I must be thick.

That I should find more productive ways to waste my time.
Wed, 14 Nov 2012 11:35 am
message box arrow
Oh no, not at all Anthony. Your last two points are saddening. Just because you don't understand something doesn't make you thick. However, deliberately closing your mind to something is a different matter...

Otherwise, I agree with all your points, even the one about 'academics' (!) I agree, there seems to be quite a lot of false modesty in academia. And, if I'm honest poetical essays and literary analyses are some of the most self-seeking, snobby and subjective writing ever. It is all basically conjecture. But, in spite of myself, I love to hate such writing - it's informative, interesting and helps me to learn.

And, finally, without knowing Mr Prestwich in person, or, indeed WCW - how can we judge? Let them have their own relationship and we can just be polite, interested (and dare I say, grateful) on-lookers.
Wed, 14 Nov 2012 01:01 pm
message box arrow

darren thomas

It's been said earlier that this discussion is fascinating but NOT the actual poem itself. I couldn't disagree more. Steven said previously that the poem does not rhyme. I didn't see a rhyme at first - but with a little force 'depends' and 'chickens' would fit into the same coop!

And something that is complex can often be made to look or appear simple. I could bounce on these words and this poem all day.

Jade makes a valid point - whatever relationship a reader has with an author's work is their business. Those who flaunt that relationship openly should 'get a room' - as it were.

Anthony, I doubt there are many other productive ways of wasting time than contributing to WOL. If I have to tie you to a red wheel barrow... you're going nowhere.

Wed, 14 Nov 2012 03:37 pm
message box arrow
"Anything can be deemed to be poetry, therefore everything is potentially poetry"

Couldn't agree more.

That's not to say that everything is good poetry, though.

Advertising your qualifications - isn't that what everyone does on their CV's anyway? So why does that make you on academic?

I enjoy reading academic essays but I partly agree with Jade, and Frank O'Hara, who called critics "the assassins of our orchard."
Thu, 15 Nov 2012 10:52 am
message box arrow
" highly artful poem, but what it talks about couldn’t be more ordinary. This leads to another beauty – the triumphant way it courts and overcomes bathos. Each stanza builds up to and emphasises its final word, but each final word is and refers to something almost startlingly ordinary. Somehow instead of these things seeming anticlimactic, the poem makes them glow. They arrive with a kind of modest, witty triumph in their sheer expectedness and rightness,"
This is about the poem's effect on this reader. That is not claiming that WCW intended to have that effect consciously. He may have been so aware of his use of language, or he may have just had a feeling for how it should sound.
Its a bit sad to say that people are being snobbish or showing off, when they try to see how the language in a poem is working. I suppose you could say that using a word like 'analysis' is academic. I was lucky enough to study for a degree and I enjoy making use of the skills I learnt then. Its not a fault to look at things in an academic way. If you go on writing over a long time, 56 years in my case, you want to know more about language and how it works. Does a carpenter say that knowing about wood is just academic?
There are facts about the structure of language, and then there are subjective views of how we are affected by certain forms differently. Both of these are legitimate ways of talking about poetry.
Thu, 15 Nov 2012 08:29 pm
message box arrow
Rarely, in the field of human consciousness
Have so many words
relied on so few.

Perhaps all utterance is merely symbolic, surface indicators of what may lie beneath. Are we getting into Hallidayan grammar here?

To your questions:
<A piece of writing, or any created object, becomes poetry at the creator’s assertion.>

Well, is it that, or the reader/audience/observer’s acceptance of that assertion that renders it so, as when the commentator described Rooney’s famous overhead kick as “absolute poetry”? And, yes, I know that in light of Ibrahimovic’s of Wednesday last, his use of the word ‘absolute’ was perhaps a hostage to fortune.

<Anything can be deemed to be poetry, therefore everything is potentially poetry.>

I sincerely hope so.

<Something written for its “antipoetic” simplicity can become poetry by the very nature of its notoriety.>

<Simplicity is deceptive, in that it can be proven to be complex.>
Yes. Or no.

<That I am obviously ill–equipped to understand any of this, therefore I must be thick.>
Hmm, let’s look at the deep structure of this sentence; what’s the subtext here?

I would argue that you have understood perfectly. It is only those who claim to know who are deluding themselves; and I should know.
Fri, 16 Nov 2012 05:46 pm
message box arrow
'<Anything can be deemed to be poetry, therefore everything is potentially poetry.>'

I have fallen foul of many a pundit on here by refuting that very argument. Merely asserting that something is poetry does not make it poetry, nor does it even approach making it potentially poetic.

ASRDTYHIUNGFDSCHGFDCPO"JHFGJYTF%%^GJYTF (my latest poem) is not a poem, nor does it have the potential for being a poem.

Really folks, the argument that 'anything goes' in poetry is just not supportable. There ARE rules, just like there are rules in nature. You cannot fly just by not believing in gravity.

In My Humble Opinion



Fri, 16 Nov 2012 07:13 pm
message box arrow
Well that all depends on how you define flying :)
Fri, 16 Nov 2012 11:22 pm
message box arrow

: )

Sat, 17 Nov 2012 06:53 am
message box arrow
No really, I must go to bed now, I can't read any more of this!!
Sat, 17 Nov 2012 04:29 pm
message box arrow

Clarence Bailey

If you have time to waste you could read - A new world naked by Paul Mariani- an overlong but passionate account of the life of WCW. Williams was not a snake oil merchant trying to peddle fake poetry to the gullible. He could be more critical of his work than many of his critics who could be very critical describing him as simple and shallow. He wanted to write new poetry using new language new forms. He probably failed more times than he succeeded in writing the poems he wanted to write but I think he increased the possibilities of poetry. I disagree with the idea that there must be rules for poetry. Poetry is not branch of physics and the best poetry should defy gravity. ASRDTYHIUNGFDSCHGFDCPO"JHFGJYTF%%^GJYTF maybe the best poem you ever write.
Sat, 17 Nov 2012 05:03 pm
message box arrow
What I have enjoyed best about this thread is that, whilst I have unfortunately missed whole chunks of it owing to enforced absences, I do not seem to have missed much.
I thought the same about "Crossroads".
Sat, 17 Nov 2012 06:59 pm
message box arrow
Aye - not many discussion threads have caused me to laugh out loud, much like Crossroads way back way...

Good on ya WCW and all your followers and non followers, for bringing a little bit of light entertainment into the poetry arena :))

Now somebody wheel me away in that wheelbarrow before I get inspired to contribute again...
Sat, 17 Nov 2012 09:17 pm
message box arrow
Or would that ruin the perfect symmetry of that tableau?
Sat, 17 Nov 2012 09:20 pm
message box arrow
This is the 98th post on the thread, making it the most popular discussion since Nicky Burrows' Catharsis thread back in Sept 2009, with 102 posts - surely soon to be overtaken. Who'd have thought it?
Sun, 18 Nov 2012 12:38 am
message box arrow
'ASRDTYHIUNGFDSCHGFDCPO"JHFGJYTF%%^GJYTF maybe the best poem you ever write.'

Cheeky monkey!

I am tempted to blog it now, but that would ruin my almost perfect canon.

: )

Sun, 18 Nov 2012 04:23 am
message box arrow

Clarence Bailey


Maybe I am just thick!
I couldn't read too many poems like this.
I find that my tastes in poetry are changing
What is made must be able to be inferred by what is in the poem
by normally sane people and generally agreed by them.
It is the writer experimenting with the reader's gullibility
The average educated English person would not be able to tell the difference between The Red Wheelbarrow and a starfish
You are entitled to like what you like and say what you feel
What a tease that poem is
There is little to convince or reward the more mature mind.
It is refreshing to read what something is as opposed to what something isn't.
All the poem wants you to do is smile at the nice chickens.
It's a small poem
There's not much to either like or dislike
A banal block of meaningless typography
I don't mind being a disappointment
If it goes on for too long though - it becomes a pain
it's just someone else telling us what we ought to think
I can only relate it to my own personal efforts
I remain none the wiser for the reams of explanation.
Sun, 18 Nov 2012 06:32 am
message box arrow
You just wanted to be number 100.

: )

Sun, 18 Nov 2012 06:36 am
message box arrow
So I will be the 'Nicky Burrows equaliser' - to think that I could ever reach such dizzy heights!

I just logged in to say that I loved Clarence's poem, even if it is plagiarism. Perhaps we should call it a WC Cento? I really appreciated the final line, which pretty much says it all :)

Also, finding my own comment in there.

'I find that my tastes in poetry are changing'

The day we close our eyes to newness, we stagnate.

Now someone go top that - and let's knock Nickie off the block...
Sun, 18 Nov 2012 09:32 am
message box arrow
David, what about Abi's marathon 178 posts of 9/7/07?
I actually think Steven W is trying to beat his personal best of 186 (7/12/08). After all it is Olympic Year!!
Sun, 18 Nov 2012 10:02 am
message box arrow
ASRDTYHIUNGFDSCHGFDCPO"JHFGJYTF%%^GJYTF (my latest poem) is not a poem, nor does it have the potential for being a poem.


it has the POTENTIAL to be a poem. You simply cannot gainsay that because you have no idea what someone else might make of it, poetically. poems can be derived form all manner of combinations of letters, utterances, words even.
Sun, 18 Nov 2012 06:58 pm
message box arrow
Give it a rest. This ceaseless belief that 'anything goes' is just depressing. Writing 'POTENTIAL' in big letters, doesn't create potential, it's just shouting.

Having said that....'ASRDTYHIUNGFDSCHGFDCPO"JHFGJYTF%%^GJYTF' is already one of my most admired creations. : )


PS. That doesn't make it a poem though.
Sun, 18 Nov 2012 08:08 pm
message box arrow
' Writing 'POTENTIAL' in big letters, doesn't create potential, it's just shouting.'

Using all capital letters is also used for emphasis - not yelling. I can be quite dramatic when I speak, so likewise, I EMPHASISE my written words as such. : )

p.s. I was REALLY hoping to be number 105... : (
Sun, 18 Nov 2012 09:47 pm
message box arrow
So much depends on


Is this a Welsh railway station? There's poetry
Sun, 18 Nov 2012 10:48 pm
message box arrow
Mon, 19 Nov 2012 09:28 pm
message box arrow
Top poem, John.


Evocative, and yet undemonstrative in its understated humility.

Love it!

: )

Mon, 19 Nov 2012 09:32 pm
message box arrow
Thankyou, John.
But I do think you miss much of its message. For it does indeed have a message.
What it is saying is, in fact, what it is not saying; that it is NOT 109. Neither is it red - it leaves the reader to surmise this if they so wish.
Certainly it is set out to seem simple but it is a pretence, albeit a rather clumsy one on my part as I hoped the reader would recognise 108 is the 12th tetranacci and is sacred in many Eastern religions.
It is both everything and nothing. I hope William Webb Ellis would have approved.
Mon, 19 Nov 2012 10:45 pm
message box arrow
Other than for the poet tree, I haven’t written anything in quite a while…
HOWEVER, I have been working REALLY hard on this, my latest one, and I wanted to share it with YOU, because I know YOU can all appreciate the profundity of what I am saying.

Tue, 20 Nov 2012 06:20 pm
message box arrow
Profundity? This is profundity...


: )

Tue, 20 Nov 2012 06:25 pm
message box arrow
OMG, John...
GENIUS !!!!!
LOL - YOU made my day :-D
Tue, 20 Nov 2012 09:15 pm
message box arrow
I know everybody's having a good laugh at the idea that anything is potentially poetry but:

a) the one-word poem already exists and has done since the '60's (google the name Aran Saroyan, for instance.)

b) the word "potentially" is very important here. There has to be some kind of process (formal proceedure or concept) involved in turning some random set of words into linguistic art.

c) just thought I'd throw some


onto the proceedings...

(the word on a line on its own is a genuine poem by Aram Saroyan...
Fri, 23 Nov 2012 12:14 pm
message box arrow
'There has to be some kind of process (formal proceedure or concept) involved in turning some random set of words into linguistic art'.

Some sort of 'rule' you mean?

Sat, 24 Nov 2012 05:18 am
message box arrow
I like the poem or non-poem as you please.For me it is evocative - I have a wheelbarrow and it was rusty so I painted it black but now I'm thinking of painting it red. I had a second barrow too, but gave it to my daughter so I have wheelbarrow in the singular as in WCW's 'poem' Also I used to have chickens (albeit brown ones) and a white duck ( sorry not russet J.A.).
I have many fond memories of Clara Cluck and Jemima Duck (not a puddle duck nor even a pond duck as she seemed to dislike water).
Anyone remotely connected with husbandry of the land, either its flora or fauna, will recognise the important role played by the noble wheelbarrow and know how much one can depend on it (mine is much used in my pocket handkerchief of a garden and even borrowed by friends)
From the matter of poetic form the poem has symmetry and all the single word lines are bi-syllabic
which pleaseth the ear somewhat and the satisfying simplicity and paucity of verbiosity give a welcome relief from some overworked, obscure to the point of
unreadable contributions masquerading as works of art.I am quite happy with K.I.S.S. now and then, just being able to let my interpretation of the meaning and rhythms flow over me like a warm shower. We all enjoy poetry ( and prose )on many levels but it isn't always necessary to plumb the depths.

Sun, 25 Nov 2012 01:01 am
message box arrow
I'm reminded by your contribution of just how quintessentially old England this scene is. In fact, it's the domestic equivalent of the Haywain.

Does anyone on here possess a ballbarrow? And could the poem have worked with a spherical plastic hopper at its centre?
Sun, 25 Nov 2012 08:16 am
message box arrow
so is
a poem
Sun, 25 Nov 2012 08:27 am
message box arrow

darren thomas

The Wheelbarrows and Shunters Club... or-der...OR-DER...
Sun, 25 Nov 2012 11:00 am
message box arrow
Yes, in a way, John, it is a 'rule' - but not necessarily one imposed from outside. That's why I called it 'procedure.' 'Rule' implies something imposed from outside, from 'tradition' or from a set of exercises or from somewhere else, like maths, which can be very good at generating interesting writing; but which can also be very restrictive to some people.

One could generate text by using fibonacci numbers, for instance; one doesn't have to use old forms like the sonnet or the sestina. But others have a kind of internal sense of form; a lot of the best free verse has a structure unique to that poem, which nevertheless works for that poem.

In the case of Aram Saroyan, he's bringing in influences i suspect from minimalist art. So it's not that he doesn't have 'form'; but that the form isn't a familiar one to poets.
Sun, 25 Nov 2012 12:29 pm
message box arrow
Well, Steven, I dont know if you noticed my topic on enjambment, but I come back to your wheelbarrow with a question.
Is the poem asking us to look more closely at the words on separate lines, and does the barrow in fact have a red wheel, or is it red all over?
Thu, 29 Nov 2012 11:18 am
message box arrow
Er... yes...

(or in other words, you decide...)
Sat, 1 Dec 2012 11:01 am
message box arrow


So little depends

this tedious

about a boring

beside the egos
of poets
Sat, 15 Dec 2012 09:36 pm
message box arrow
Always happy to improve the inadequate
The Red Wheelbarrow
Mon, 17 Dec 2012 11:19 am
message box arrow
Well I'm so glad we ended on this note, John. Well done you for lifting the spirits.

Now I'll stroke yours if you stroke mine :) xx
Mon, 17 Dec 2012 12:47 pm
message box arrow
Did anyone hear the Radio 4 programme on WCW on Saturday? I thought it was good. Quite a lot of what has been said on this post came up. Here it is: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01p9gk2
Although there is only 5 days left to listen - hurry! (Or not).
Tue, 18 Dec 2012 02:50 pm
message box arrow
I don't normally resurrect discussion threads from the dead, but I came across a brilliant little poem in a book of poetry somebody sent me, which really ties in to this thread. 'The Green Wheelbarrow' by Ian McMillan.

It's a simple little poem but it ticks a lot of boxes for me. The links with the Red Wheelbarrow made me laugh - but I just love the way the poem ended - it moved me - in a non sentimental way. It's a poem that surprises you and I like that kind of poetry.


Sat, 18 May 2013 05:03 pm
message box arrow
Apologies if anyone has already mentioned this in the thread - I tried checking this, but it's such a long thread I gave up!
Sat, 18 May 2013 05:04 pm
message box arrow
Ian McMillan is a fantastic poet - saw him at the Red Shed in Wakefield a couple of months ago and his show doesn't just include poetry but, also, some wonderful anecdotal tales of his life in and around Barnsley - well worth checking him out if anyone gets the chance
Sat, 18 May 2013 05:08 pm
message box arrow

Michael Wilson-South

The fact that a poem is sparse does not mean it is not powerful. Nor does a poem being clever make it meaningful. "The Red Wheelbarrow" may not be The Buddha's Flower Sermon, but it may be as close as we can get in English.
Wed, 12 Nov 2014 05:30 am
message box arrow

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more Hide this message