What Exactly Depends Upon a Red Wheelbarrow?

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Karissa Morton Carter

For one of my poetry classes, we have been reading John Felstiner’s Can Poetry Save the Earth.  In preparation for a Skype session with Felstiner on Monday night, he sent us a list of poems he wanted us to consider, along with some questions about each.  In regards to William Carlos Williams’ infamous “The Red Wheelbarrow,” he asked the simple question:  “How much depends, and why?”  I’m a ramble-thinker.  I blab & (attempt to) condense, so welcome—my process of figuring out the answer to that question.

The choice of the word “glazed” in particular strikes me as it positions the reader in a very specific relation to both time & weather—two things completely out of our control.  The wheelbarrow is not “dripping” or “drenched,” as it would be if it were currently raining, yet it’s not “dry” or even just “damp” as though the rain’s been over for…

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