“No ideas but in things.” This is the famous quote by poet William Carlos Williams, who believed in grounding art in the reality of the everyday world:
Williams sought to invent an entirely fresh and uniquely American form of poetry whose subject matter centered on everyday circumstances of life and the lives of common people.
His most famous poem, “The Red Wheelbarrow,” is an urgent call to recognize the importance of the seemingly mundane objects in our lives:
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
This poem tells us that things matter, not in a materialistic sense, but that they are real, they truly exist, just as we do. We need them to create and even to contemplate art. “So much depends” on not just the wheelbarrow, but on its redness, the sheen of rain, the “white / chickens.”
Write a poem about any object in your home. What do you use everyday? What things do you use to make your life work? Do you have a mug you’ve used for years? A favorite t-shirt? Something you’ve kept that you don’t actually like, but it was a gift? What central place does this object take in your life?