What is one thing that you think a poem absolutely needs to have? Is it a description? Is it a rhyme?
Do you think poems need to be long? Why or why not?
Do you think the poem is boring? Explain your answer.
How does this poem make you feel? Do you have a song or a movie that makes you feel the same way?
What do you think the poem means when it says, “So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow…?” Who is relying upon the wheelbarrow? Explain.
Does this poem give you the impression that the wheelbarrow is special? Explain.
Do you think this is a successful Imagist poem? Explain.
BONUS: If you have time, talk about some subjects that you think would make good subjects for a poem like this.
The Red Wheelbarrow
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
First, discuss these questions as a group.
1. Do you think being alone is important? Why or why not?
2. Do you have any quiet moments in your house where nobody is home?
3. Do you like those quiet moments? Why or why not?
Then, read the poem twice. You can read it either to yourself or as a group.
After you’ve finished reading, discuss these questions in your group. Be sure to write down your own answers on loose-leaf.
1. What’s your initial reaction? Why?
2. Why is the man singing softly?
3. How does the narrator describe the sun?
4. How does the man describe his dancing?
5. How does the man feel about his body?
6. Why do you think William Carlos Williams chose the words “happy genius” if he thinks he’s “grotesque?” Explain.
7. How do you think the narrator feels about being alone? Explain.
8. Why do you think the man at the very end asks the question, “Who shall say I am not / the happy genius of my household?” Explain your answer.
9. In your opinion, is this type of behavior something normal people would do in private? Do you think it’s something the man benefits from? Explain.
10. Has your initial reaction changed? Explain.
William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963
If when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,-
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
“I am lonely, lonely,
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,-
Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?