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One of my favorite poets is William Carlos Williams. Through focusing on specific details in the everyday world around him, he creates snapshot images of life.

One of his most famous poems is called “The Red Wheelbarrow.” You can find more of his poems here.wheelbarrow in a garden

The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

Many students read or hear this poems and say “huh? what?” So before you say “huh? what?” try the following writing exercise to see if you can’t get a the idea of the things around you reflecting the life around you. Williams said, “no ideas but in things.”

Grab your Writer’s Notebook, head outside and sit down under a tree or the middle of a flower bed. Or, if you’re just not in the mood to go outside, find a space in your house you’ve never written in before. Perch yourself on the kitchen counter or a quiet neglected corner you’ve never sat in. The requirement here is that you give yourself a new perspective from which to study your space.

On a side note, if you’ve read Eragon, this is also an exercise the elf who trains Eragon makes him do. Like writers, apparently dragon riders also need to pay attention to the details!

Now, start writing. Write for as long as you can and describe every detail you see, hear, feel, and even taste. Be as specific as possible. If you see birds or flowers, what kind of birds and flowers? Or if you see a bowl in your home, what is it made of?

What do the “things” around you share?

When you are done, re-read what you wrote and with a colored pencil or different color pen, underline and circle your favorite images. What about those details make them work?

If you’d like, share your results and favorite images in the comments below.