The Red Wheelbarrow
This is the forty-third installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here.
William Carlos Williams was both a modernist and imagist poet. Imagism called for precise imagery and direct, clear language. By focusing on one single image and describing it with “luminous details” as imagist poet, Ezra Pound, called them, the reader can experience the image’s essence. “The Red Wheelbarrow” is one of Williams’ most famous imagist poems:
The Red Wheelbarrow
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
With a phrase like “so much depends upon,” the reader is left to fill in the blanks. Williams’ success is not only what he chose as his “luminous details,” but also that he picked an everyday object that, for most people, has many uses, connotations, and memories packed into it.
In this week’s exercise, you will also describe some everyday objects that have been lying around your house or your backyard, and choose one packed with the most meaning to create a poem modeled after Williams’. Your creative play will be the “luminous details” you choose.
- Choose five tangible items from your home or wherever you are doing this writing exercise. Observe them closely. In writing, describe each briefly.
- Choose one item from your list and write a poem based exactly on “The Red Wheelbarrow,” by coping the lines "so much depends/ upon" and keeping the line and stanza lengths. Fill in the rest with your description of the object you chose.
- “Red,” “glazed with rain water,” and “beside the chickens” were the only three details Williams included. Your poem need not have more than three descriptive details, and they can be just as simple. Notice that Williams chose a color, a visual detail about its texture, and what the item is juxtaposed next to. Feel free to use these categories to guide you if you are stumped.
How did you do? Did the “luminous details” you chose, in fact, shine? Did following a model, in terms of phrases and line/stanza lengths help you focus on and isolate a few simple, yet, powerful details? Were you able to pack enough connotation into the particular object you chose?
To encourage each other and grow a community of Curious Creatives, sign in from a google account so you can share your creation in the comment box below. Also, if you subscribe to this blog (submit your email address in the "Follow this Site by Email" box to the right), you will get an email update whenever a new exercise is added. Thanks for playing!
Source: Inspired by teacher Stacy Chestnut’s exercise from her creative writing class at East High School, Wichita, KS, September 2017.