So Much Depends

When thinking about Ordinary Time poetry, William Carlos Williams should have come to mind a lot faster than he did. (In fact, a husband and wife, on separate occasions, both suggested I read “The Red Wheelbarrow,” early on in the planning process.) Really, who other than an imagist–a poet whose style is describing the ordinary–should I bring to Ordinary Time?

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.


I remember in my 11th grade English class we were asked on a test what this poem was about. The answer? A red wheelbarrow. (Duh.) We so wanted it to mean something more, because aren’t poems supposed to be convoluted and ethereal?

But that’s what makes this poem a brilliant poem. It’s simple, succinct, and straight-forward. It bears the sacred even by meaning exactly what it means. Here’s the red wheelbarrow. It’s wet. It’s utilitarian. It’s needed, dependable. (And thus–maybe?–it’s sacred.)

About Lauren Sawyer

I am an assistant instructor at a graduate school in Seattle, Washington, and I hold a master of the arts in theology and culture. I love coffee, rainy days, and John Updike. Learn more about me at laurendeidra.com.

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