Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Red Wheelbarrow

I've just listened to it six times and I could listen to it another six: The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams read by him. He is one of the leading 20th century American poets who was added to the UK's Poetry Archive this week. There's The Widow's Lament in Springtime, too, in all its splendour (first line: 'Sorrow is my own yard'), and the escoriating To Elsie which I hadn't discovered before.

But hearing The Red Wheelbarrow and the way the poet says 'water' with an aspirated 'wh' sound and lands strongly on the 't', and how the 'wh' leans back to take in 'wheelbarrow' and forward to the 'white' of the chickens, and how those sounds are like posts in the poem around which WCW builds a small and miraculous house ... magic.

Treat yourself, go here to hear the William Carlos Williams' poems, and then there are all the other poets reading their work. (Thanks to Bookman Beattie for the tip-off).

p.s. (post-posting) Just read the explanation of WCW's poems that runs alongside the recordings and couldn't resist throwing it on here too.

'The recording also features one of the defining poems of the 20th century:the brevity of 'The Red Wheelbarrow' - just sixteen words in all - belies its iconic fame. However, it is the archetypal example of Williams' oft-quoted maxim "no ideas but in things", the extreme simplicity of the language and the precise placing of each visual element an argument for clear sight in poetry, stripped of conventional symbolism. Elsewhere Williams' social conscience is to the fore, in the act of imaginative empathy of 'The Widow's Lament in Springtime' and the more overtly political vision of 'The Yachts' and 'To Elsie'. ' And so on...


Anonymous said...

There is a wonderful small independent bookstore in the Marais in Paris called The Red Wheelbarrow. The two women who own this tiny but superb bookshop named it after the William Carlos Williams poem.

Mary McCallum said...

Dear Graham - I bet you've bought a few books from it too! Lovely name for a bookshop indeed.

Jim Murdoch said...

You might find this site interesting. It's called Voices and Visions. It contains hour-long films about a number of poets, Williams included; his was the first I watched. He was a great influence on me as a young poet.

Mary McCallum said...

Thanks Jim. It sounds fantastic. When I have a free hour I'll call that one up.