William Carlos Williams: Artistic Poet Essay, Research Paper
The Artistic Poet
William Carlos Williams is a superb artist. Not only has he created a masterpiece of a poem, but he has also cultivated abstract and concrete images to paint a picture of his red wheelbarrow. Each word is a brushstroke to this “still life” poem. He has also taken elementary objects, such as a wheelbarrow and a chicken, and turned them into icons of industrialized civilizations. Without these indispensable components, society would not be as evolved as it is today. Williams uses an experimental structure in his free verse poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” and effectively demonstrates an array of figurative language. He also utilizes simplistic images to capture the essence of childhood, setting and technology.
Through the use of figurative language, such as imagery and verbal music, Williams was able to convey a vivid, realistic perception of this wheelbarrow with unique spacing and pauses. The first image we encounter comes in line three with “a red wheel” (3). As the word “barrow” (4) is added to compound “wheel” (3), it becomes evident that it is a red wheelbarrow. This image has a familiarity about it in a way that I can somewhat imagine a setting now. The lucid wheelbarrow plants an intense image in the scene. “Glazed with rain/water” (5-6) transforms the red wheelbarrow to a new illusion with a whole different feel to it. The word “glazed” (5) evokes a painterly image. The ordinary wheelbarrow, now “glazed with rain” (5), is luminous and wet. “Beside the white/chickens” (7-8) is perhaps the most fascinating image of all. At first thought it seems irrelevant to this abstract “still life” poem, but then it becomes very influential to the setting of the wheelbarrow. Another figurative language device Williams incorporates meticulously is verbal music. Williams was able to create unusual pauses in this sentence by spacing. “A red wheel” (3) and “glazed with rain” (5) are all monosyllabic words used to elongate the line, putting an unordinary pause between the words “wheel” (3) and “barrow” (4) and likewise with “rain”(5) and “water” (6). These pauses have the effect of breaking the image down to its most basic parts. Using the sentence as a painter uses line and color, Williams breaks up the words in order to see the object more closely. Next, Williams intricately tunes the poem by using assonance. The first and second stanzas are linked by the long “o” in “so” (1) and “barrow” (4). The long vowels in “glazed in rain” (5) match the same construction of “beside the white” (7). In the last stanza, another interesting occurrence are the sounds “ch” and “enz” in the last word of the poem that echoes the sounds of the initial line, “so much depends” (1). Every single word and space has been put there intentionally.
The simplicity of this poem is marvelous. Williams takes fundamental objects and transforms them into a work of art. A wheelbarrow was a breakthrough piece of equipment still in use today. The “wheel barrow” (3-4), by design, is simple, yet functional. Farm life evolved dramatically due to its invention. The “red wheel barrow” (3-4) is such a familiar image that anyone can picture it. The same is true with “white chickens” (7-8). “White chickens” (7-8) are as fundamental as a “red wheel barrow” (3-4). They both have important use on a farm. Just from those two concrete objects, Williams has painted a picture of a farm. A farm is the epitome of the “simple life.” This poem also radiates a child-like quality that makes me think of my childhood. Somewhere in this picture I can invision a little boy in muddy overalls standing in the background. Another underlying theme is technology. We have become so advanced today, but we still rely on the most elementary components. A farm is dependent on wheelbarrows and most definitely chickens. This poem’s simplistic ideas are refreshing and bring a new sense of easiness to life.
From the abstract opening line to the concrete end, Williams barraged us with unique and unexpected images and pauses. He has proven his artistic attributes go beyond his writing abilities. “The Red Wheelbarrow” will forever be etched in my mind. William Carlos Williams is the “Picasso” of modern American poetry.
Williams, William Carlos. “The Red Wheelbarrow.” The Norton Introduction to Literature.
7th ed. Eds. Jerome Beaty and J. Paul Hunter. New York: W.W. Norton
and Company, Inc., 1998. 928.