Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What So Much Depends Upon

We're sitting in history class and professor clicks to the next powerpoint slide.

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white
 ~{William Carlos Williams, 1923}

The air is aWkwArD. It feels....
too simple.  Uncomfortably so.

I scan the class from my perch in the back of the classroom, --{I always sit here to survey... I watch.}-- upholstered bucket seats & stadium seating fall in terrace below my lookout.

My eyes stop on slouched basketball star, his hair braided in thick rows.  He frowns at the poem, no doubt unimpressed, re-reading, thinking there must be more.

I shift in my seat, half-waiting for someone to say what we're all thinking.  "Yes..and??"

Lectures on the 1920s & Modernism showcase this period's willingness to "risk a certain amount of incoherence and experimentation in order to challenge preconceived notions of value and order."

Professor says, "I wrote my entire dissertation on this William Carlos Williams poem."
But how to eek out meaning in sixteen words of apparent randomness describing an arbitrary scene? & exactly what "depends upon" it? 

Yet, isn't this a lesson to learn?  This challenging preconceived ideas of beauty, of significance, of ways of life?  Taking each moment as meaningful & each breath as bread?

I feel the moment suspend, one moment of life that I could let pass and forget for it's assumed insignificance. 

In the margin of my notes I scratch down:

so much depends

a brow knit

perched on tiered

searching for meaning
in quotidian.


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this. And indeed this doctor poet's intention was simply that, an assortment of words without the investment of deeper meaning. But this is impossible, isn't it? Art is as much about the artist's intention as is about the reader's experience and in this case, if the reader recognizes the archetype of the rain or the red wheel barrow, then the doctor poet has little say in the matter!

  2. Searching for meaning in quotidian...yes indeed

  3. @ Sarah- I thought of Jan when I used her word! :)

    & yes, we should definitely compare teaching stories this summer. can't believe you're graduating!!!!

  4. smiles. i read a boat load of poetry...and look for meaning behind the words...and sometimes i just scratch my head...smiles.

  5. i remember first reading wcw's little gem in seventh grade and being thoroughly unimpressed. :) it's grown on me a bit since then, but your poem? is better.

  6. taking each breath as bread - I read something else along these lines this week and found my self winded, wondering, these words..they could change my life. To take each moment, not judge as good or bad, but give thanks to Him and eat.

  7. I first ran across this poem in a book by Jeffrey Overstreet and I loved it right away. What can be accomplished with so few words is amazing.

  8. that's a nice lesson... I do find a lot of poetry hard, but I also find the process of finding meaning to be meaningful in and of itself.

  9. Taking each moment as meaningful & each breath as bread?

    leah... here you touched on one of my favorite poems :) i love your insights, friend... you write so beautifully. for me, i find such rest in william's words. i think it speaks to me as an artist: the color, the bright vivid color, makes life worth it... life, in all of its ash and grey...

    riveting post. xo

  10. Ahhh!.. I have a children's book you MUST read! It's about a young boy who hates writing poetry, but Williams' poem and other inspirations serve as a catalyst for some of his best writing. It's one of my favorite children's books!!! It's called "Love That Dog" by Sharon Creech. It was a terrific book to share with some of my reluctant readers this year! :)


Thank you for taking the time to muse aloud with me,
to share your heart
& allow your thoughts to become words.

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ Leah