Sentence Diagramming: The Red Wheelbarrow

I don’t get most poetry. If it doesn’t rhyme, and there’s no rhythm, I don’t understand the point of the line breaks; wouldn’t poems be easier to read if they were unbroken text? I also have a hard time enjoying a piece of writing when I don’t understand what it’s trying to say, and poems seem to excel at obtuseness.

However, the whole point of sentence diagramming is self-growth. So. Here’s the most famous poem I could find that makes no sense to me whatsoever: The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams. 

red wheelbarrow

I was hoping that diagramming the sentence would reveal some hidden meaning that the author intended. I don’t know if I achieved exactly that, but I did discover something cool.

Look at how the poem drips from the word “depends,” as though the rest of the poem does depend on that word. Interestingly, the word depend comes from the Latin word dependere, “to hang down,” as the poem is doing in this diagram from that very word. Grammatically speaking, the rest of the poem also depends on depends because “upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens” are all dependent clauses. 

Whether this was as the author intended or it’s just a happy accident, I don’t know. But it’s a new way for me to appreciate this baffling poem.

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