Apr 132011
 

TRY EXPLICATING A SHORT POEM

THE RED WHEELBARROW

by William Carlos Williams

so much depends

upon

a red wheel

barrow

glazed with rain

water

beside

the white

chickens.

(http://www.gale.com/free_resources/poets/poems/redwheel.htm)

Try writing a note, literally, for each word or phrase separately and as a line or unit:

“red”

“wheelbarrow”

“red wheelbarrow”

“so much”

“depends”

“so much depends”

“upon”

“a red”

“wheel”

“barrow”

“upon a red wheelbarrow”

[Note that you should consider “wheel” and “barrow” separately first as that is how Williams presents them to you.]

“glazed”

“with rain”

“water”

“glazed with rain water”

“beside”

“the white”

“chickens”

“beside the white chickens”

Write as much you can think of for each word. Allow yourself to write even silly or unexpected thoughts that you have when you read each word and phrase. See how many ways the words can be read.

REVIEW YOUR NOTES AND INTERPRET

Try to provide a paraphrase or summary for the poem. Based on how you read all the words, what is the poem about? What subject matter has been provided? Do you think others will come to the same conclusion? What if someone says the poem is not about something (a wheelbarrow) that is red, but about an enemy sneaking up on us and for that matter, unless we defend ourselves, we are just “chickens?”

Because the poet has chosen to divide what is essentially just one “simple” sentence into a particular set of lines, say how the way the lines are divided has affected your understanding of the poem.

If “plot” is what something is “about” and “theme” is “what it means, ” can you state the theme of the poem? Trust yourself! The poem’s meaning should be directly derived from the words you just studied.

HEY, HEY! DON’T BE AFRAID. THERE IS NO DEEP HIDDEN MEANING AND YOU WON’T BE WRONG if you state your interpretation or theme!

The way we are analyzing, explicating, all we need are the words on the page!

Comment on any other idea you think is important for a reader reading the poem. Comment on whether you liked the poem and why.