The American poet William Carlos Williams was convinced about how much depended upon ‘a red wheel barrow’ and what made the Rutherford doctor so convinced was that something depended upon that picture which the words conjured into being:
so much depends
a red wheel
The picture becomes more exact with the following lines of description
glazed with rain
beside the white
Here was a firm belief that American culture was based upon a realization of the qualities of a place in relation to the life which occupies it. Williams’s poem was written only a year after the publication of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land where the American hope for cultural distinction seemed to be based upon an inheritance of a European and classical tradition of placing oneself in a very different context from the one asserted by the doctor from Rutherford. In defiance of Eliot’s world, Williams insisted upon starting with local materials and ‘lifting these things into an ordered and utilized whole (The American Background, 1934). However, if so much is to depend upon this localisation of background then it must be because firm observation of the local leads to a greater insight into thoughts and emotions which transcend what could otherwise be regarded as simply parochial.
I suppose that Haiku were originally written in the days before the camera. If a traveller through the world wished to register a moment of the here-and-now which could be placed in contrast to an echo of both the past and the hoped-for future then a short piece of poetry might be the best way of providing that record. Some of these short poems by Tony Lewis-Jones place that recorded moment against a clear white background:
Winter’s last throw
of the dice.
The juxtaposition of dark dots on a die contrasts with the surrounding whiteness of the cube itself. Small moments are the remnants of a gone season, a last throw cast by a loser whose frosty belligerence will not prevent what will, inevitably, overcome: Spring wins!
We measure out our life, perhaps, not with coffee spoons but with the unbidden recollection prompted by a cup of ‘café au lait’: ‘up early / café au lait- / thinking of you / our nights / in Paris’
Wallace Stevens referred to that red wheelbarrow as a ‘mobile-like arrangement’ and Hugh Kenner suggested that the words used by Williams ‘dangle in equidependency, attracting the attention, isolating it, so that the sentence in which they are arrayed comes to seem like a suspension system.’
Have a look at these new Haiku by Tony Lewis-Jones who runs the Bristol-based on-line site Various Artists and the book is available via Amazon.
Ian Brinton 10th March 2015