Thursday, August 23, 2012

So much depends upon…

The Red Wheelbarrow

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

William Carlos Williams

Over the years this poem has remained a favorite of mine, primarily because it is so simple and paints a vivid image. Williams was an early pioneer in the Imagist poetry movement in America and, like Wood with art, believed poetry written by Americans should reflect American culture, not European, as was the trend at the time. According to, which is published by The Academy of Poets, “Williams sought to invent an entirely fresh—and singularly American—poetic, whose subject matter was centered on the everyday circumstances of life and the lives of common people.” Sound familiar?
Since I have been at the American Gothic House Center this poem came back up on my radar and I wondered if Wood might have read it somewhere along the line. Published in the years before Wood helped launch the Regionalism Art movement, he very well could have run across it across it in casual reading and perhaps it made him think about what Williams was trying to accomplish, and, in turn, he set out to do the same thing only on canvas.

There is another parallel here that just can’t be overlooked, the first line of the poem, “so much depends.” Williams believed that so much depended upon the normality of the things and the objects and acts people take for granted—images that a part of the American life. Of like mind, Wood did the same. Pick any of Wood’s works in the 1930s and this can be seen, American Gothic, Woman with Plants, Spring in Town, the list goes on.

When I was pondering this poem Fall Plowing came to mind. At the time so much depended on fall plowing, as it was the belief the earth needed to lay fallow in order for a new rotation of crops to thrive the following spring. Turning farm ground with a plow every year after the harvest has gone by the wayside, but nonetheless farmers across the country prepare their fields in some manner after harvest to ensure a healthy crop the next year. After all, so much depends on it.

One last parallel should also be noted, Williams gained fame in the 1930s but was overlooked until the 1950s and 60s when the public and other poets became more aware of the simplicity and accessibility of his prose. As too with Wood’s art. But something just as important also came to the forefront, the uniquely American focus of their art because both understood the importance of America and American culture and realized that so much depends on the simple, necessary things like plowing the ground or even a red wheelbarrow.

Brian Chambers
Media Coordinator
The American Gothic House Center

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