The Red Wheelbarrow is a renowned poem by William Carlos Williams.
Every time I read it, I get welcomed with a dramatic front, then depart unhappy and unsatisfied due to the cryptic message.
The first time I heard about it was while watching a popular TV series called Mr. Robot.
SPOILER ahead for Mr.Robot. Watch out and take care ;)
Apparently, the words of this poem were the only English words that Tyrell's (one of the major antagonists) father knew. It kinda saddened me that it was apparently the only purpose of this poem in this series...
Up until today! At least, for me.
Here's how the poem goes:
So much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
- XXII from Spring And All by William Carlos Williams (1923)
I don't know if reading it gives you the same feeling as I described above, however it still kinda does it to me.
Here's what Williams wrote in regards to how he got inspired to write this poem:
["The Red Wheelbarrow"] sprang from affection for an old Negro named Marshall. He had been a fisherman, caught porgies off Gloucester. He used to tell me how he had to work in the cold in freezing weather, standing ankle deep in cracked ice packing down the fish. He said he didn’t feel cold. He never felt cold in his life until just recently. I liked that man, and his son Milton almost as much. In his back yard I saw the red wheelbarrow surrounded by the white chickens. I suppose my affection for the old man somehow got into the writing.
- "Seventy Years Deep," written for Holiday Magazine (1954)
This "old Negro" he's referring to was found out to be called Thaddeus Lloyd Marshall Sr.
I only learned about this today... this has been confirmed since 2005. Not sure why I never looked it up.
Anyways... here's my take on this poem:
On one facet, it represents the unsung hero. The one who has a specific purpose, under specific conditions for the greater good. The one upon which a lot depends.
On the other side, although a dark one, it illustrates a useful tool that can only fulfill its purpose when manoeuvered externally.
Okay, I know. This is a bit cryptic as well.
However, it proved to be sufficient for me to better understand both the TV series and the poem.
I choose to leave it at this :)