The Red Wheelbarrow
When you major in English and go to graduate school for an advanced degree in creative writing, you will inevitably be required to take a poetry class. Don’t get me wrong. Poetry is awesome, for the most part. Sometimes I connect with a poet’s work and sometimes I don’t, but the experience of reading it has always been pleasant enough.
Writing poetry, on the other hand, has never been my forte.
Sure, I tried keeping a journal and writing poetry as a teenager. Who didn’t? And deep down, I knew that if I allowed creativity to overtake me, tapped into the flurry of emotions common to people my age and found an angle that connected with others, I could very well be the next poet laureate of the United States—much like one of my favorite poets of all time, Robert Frost.
And everything had to rhyme, of course. Everybody knew that.
Needless to say, I wrote maybe two poems out of hundreds—maybe thousands—that were actually good by most standards. One was even published in some kind of poetry anthology after I entered it in a contest and supposedly won. Looking back, it’s possible that was some kind of scam. I never paid money for anything, but I also don’t remember ever seeing the book. Not sure what happened there, but damn it, winning felt good.
Despite my poetic misgivings and obvious lack of skill, I did develop a love for poetry and still appreciate it today. And that poetry class I took in graduate school turned out to be one of my favorite classes. It was there that I was introduced to the poet whose work I share here today—one of my personal favorites, “The Red Wheelbarrow.”
The creator of this masterful work is William Carlos Williams, a Jersey boy who was both a poet and a doctor—he received his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania—not to mention a close friend of another great poet, Ezra Pound. Both of these talented wordsmiths were involved in the Imagism movement, which emulated the techniques of classical Japanese and Chinese poetry especially in terms of clarity, precision and “economy of language”—which is basically a fancy way of saying they didn’t overuse words.
I like that: saying exactly what you mean and painting a picture using the fewest possible words. Hemingway did the same thing in fiction. And I absolutely love Hemingway.
Eventually, Williams decided that Imagism was a little too focused on Europe and Asia. He wanted to bring it back home to the U.S.A. and give it some American flair. And he did just that, creating a form that was fresh, new and focused completely on the everyday lives of common people.
In honor of William Carlos Williams—an amazing poet who passed away nearly a decade before I was born, but whose work I will always appreciate—I bring you one of my favorite poems, “The Red Wheelbarrow.”
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
Amen to that, my man. Amen to that.
Posted on July 9, 2013, in Perspectives, Writing and tagged Ezra Pound, Imagism, inspiration, literature, personal, perspectives, poet laureate of the united states, Poetry, Red Wheelbarrow, Robert Frost, United States, William Carlos Williams, writing. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.