Monday, November 8, 2010

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

(William Carlos Williams, 1923)

To me, this poem has always been about seeing. - Ever since I first read it in early fall, 1989. I remember the moment exactly; because "The Red Wheelbarrow" was presented in the very first lecture I attended at the University of Bergen, during the first couple of weeks that fall semester, before I went back to New York.

Professor Orm Øverland used it as an introduction to English literature and asked what the meaning of it was. I answered that it shows us the importance of noticing beauty around us, even in unspectacular, everyday objects.

I still appreciate this poem very much. I think it says something important about what art is, and can be. Visual art points out beautiful, interesting, shocking, funny...etc... aspects of life, that we may not notice on our own. And artworks often draw heavily on their context; a big part of a work's meaning may be generated by the surroundings in which it is presented. - Just like the image of the wheelbarrow in Williams's poem is something we can see more clearly when we imagine its red color next to the white chickens, an image that we most likely would not have been able to appreciate if he had not pointed our attention to it.

What do you think this poem is about?
Is there another poem that tells you something similar (or different!) about art?
Then please send it to me by e-mail, so that I can include it in my poetry page (

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