I think a good place to start following what Williams is doing is by
reading the essays on him by Ginsberg and by Levertov in the National
Poetry Foundation's WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS:  MAN AND POET.  Ginsberg
takes very literally Williams's "no ideas but in things" as meaning that
the image is there for itself, not for its suggestion of something else
or for symbolic values.  Williams hated Eliot's poetry for its allusions
and symbolism because it make poetry esoteric and inaccessible and not
immediate.  Levertov points out that Williams did not say "no ideas"; he
said "but in things."  She emphasizes that there is no way to escape the
image or even symbol.

But the key point of the debate is that an image directs one to
something else.  Williams wanted to direct the reader to the thing
itself, not to some other thing the image suggests.

So what this poem is about is a red wheelbarrow glazed with rain water
beside the white chickens, except that the brilliant line-breaks effect
a new way of seeing. 

>>> Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> 11/27/2007 3:20 PM >>>

Thanks CR. I still find myself mystified by some Imagist poems, not
always productively! For example, can anyone tell me what this poem
signifies besides the visual image? In addition  of course to displaying
Williams' genius with line-breaks. Diana
The Red Wheelbarrow
William Carlos Williams

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white


Date: Tue, 27 Nov 2007 09:29:29 -0800From: [log in to unmask]:
Imagism (Was Re: War and Justice)To: [log in to unmask] 
Thanks, Diana, for starting this engaging discussion on an important
aspect of poetry. "Imagism", indeed, proved to be a turning point in 
the history of poetic technique, stand as it does at the threshold of 
modernist poetry. Time stood still for a while -- captured in a camera
-- before unwinding its dynamics along a new road.
Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Carrol, someone riding in an elevator would not be interested in
information about the engineering that makes it work. A visitor to the
Empire State Building would probably not be interested in learning about
reinforced concrete or how Art Deco differs from Bauhaus architecture.
Builders of elevators, skyscrapers or poems need certain kinds of
information that end-users of those things do not.  Intellectual
knowledge is only one tool -- it does not replace talent or intuition,
but it is useful. Diana> Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2007 12:07:16 -0600> From:
[log in to unmask]> Subject: Re: War and Justice> To:
[log in to unmask]> > Diana Manister wrote:> > > > Carrol wrote:> >
> > "I've read the poems for 50 years without ever thinking of them as>
> "imagist" or "vorticist" or any other "ist." What evidence is there> >
that attending to these abstractions would transform my reading?"> > > >
Carrol,> > > > If one is simply consuming poems then an awareness of
various> > contemporaneous styles in relation to which the poet has
positioned> > hinself aesthetically probably will not enhance the read.>
> I guess I should have repeated a passage from an earlier post: "It
seems> to me that your concern with those slogans is acting as a
barrier> between you and the poems (and the world of 1910-20). Setting
these big> abstractions against each other takes us off on a voyage to
Arcturus.> And intellectual and emotional complex is clearly a
tremendously ACTIVE> and even violent complex."> > _Any_ use of the
poems, including literary history, cultural history,> comparison of
Eliot and Pound, accounting for Pound's whole career,> relating Pound
and/or Eliot to earlier literary traditions, establishing> the political
and/or social significance of both the criticism and the> poems -- _all_
these (and any other you can think of) are incompatible> with beginning
with the abstractions (pretty empty abstractions I> believe) "vorticism"
and "imagism." They are relevant, if relevant at> all, _only_ in the
final stages of any treatment of either the poetry> _or_ the criticism
of Pound and/or Eliot. Note: I really am challenging> the relevance of
these to labels to the _criticism_ or critical theory> of Pound. I think
you can understand even passages in which he _uses_> the word
"vorticism" or "imagism" if you ignore those terms to begin> with.> >

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