One of the most well-known poems by Williams is “The Red Wheelbarrow”, where through the way the poetic image is being built, the poet wants to direct the reader’s gaze to the way we perceive through our senses. Not allowing the mind to create its own, mental images, Williams forces it to stay on the problem of the eyesight and how it creates reality through what it allows and what it discards as a consequence of its own biological framework.
Peter Quartermain in the essay “Reading The Difficult”1F , by showing the misunderstanding and incorrect readings that this poem faced on its first public appearance, primarily by the main New Criticism theoreticians like Cleanth Brooks, tries to speak of exactly the opposite – of the effect of the new, the unrecognizable, the abnormal as Wallace Stevens calls it (1951: 154), that does not use the imagination of the percipient in order to anesthetize the senses, but to make him experience reality, and not art more closely. According to Quartermain, the very act or “poetic event” demands that we look critically at our own, not just sensual, but reader’s, that is, textual perception of things. Williams is adamant in keeping the reader’s focus on the problem of visual consciousness, i.e. how it is created. Here, we would call upon Stevens who says that imagination finds the as yet unrecognized, by the mind, normal within the abnormal. The moment something enters in the mind, in language, and with that in our consciousness, is the moment that we have a name for it. In that same moment the thing becomes familiar, normal, recognizable or “re-cognized”, as if seen again, that is, as if already seen, and with that understood and experienced anew (1951: 153-154). Consequently, what Williams is trying to achieve is re-normalization of the normal after just an instant before he had it defamiliarized, in that way creating the effect of experiencing something new.
In contrast to these positions, Brooks in 1964, closer to his perceiving of “The Red Wheelbarrow” to Lessing2F in 1766, will remain totally uncommunicative towards Williams’ poetic artifact whose language is “quite inert. I see the white chickens and the raindrops glazing the red paint, but I have to take on faith the author’s statement that ‘so much depends’ on this scene.”3F The reason why Brooks considers Williams’ language to be inert is the same reason for which Williams was criticized for almost the entirety of his poetic career. His expression is pure and simple, therefore the thing referred to in the line “so much depends” (1)4F is the thing that we see in the poem upon the first reading. The thing that depends, depends “upon/from/on” the object, that is, the scene depicted in the poem. All the poem’s deeper meaning is already laid (out) on the surface. The perception of the object is the object itself. The poetic acts are the objects that are at the same time independent bodies and constitutive parts of the red wheelbarrow as a material object and of “The Red Wheelbarrow” as a poem-object.5F