One Thing & Another

Notes From My Journal: Extreme Success

Harold Edgerton, a pioneer in the field of ultra-high-speed photography, once said: “If you don’t get up at 3 a.m. and want to do your work, you’re wasting your time.”

I understand exactly what Edgerton meant. Three o’clock in the morning is extreme, but there have been times when I’ve been so involved in some project or scheme that I found myself waking up early to get at it. Sometimes as early as 3 a.m.

It’s amazing what you can do when you are consumed by passion. Wake up early. Work long hours. Skip meals. Focus with laser-sharp intensity. And get up early the next day and happily do it again.

You are a lucky person if that kind of passion comes into your life once or twice. If it stays with you for years and drives your career, you are blessed.

One of my lifelong avocations has been poetry – reading it and in the past 10 years or so writing it…


From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

“The Red Wheelbarrow”… 50 Years Later

I stumbled across a poem today by William Carlos Williams. The poet Harriet Zinnes introduced me to his poetry almost 50 years ago when she was a professor at Queens College, CUNY. Back then, this poem was relatively new and a phenomenon of sorts. It was published first in a small volume entitled Spring and Alland later republished (along with the poetry of Ezra Pound and Louis Zukofsky and other “Objectivists”) by avant-garde publisher New Directions.

 “The Red Wheelbarrow,” Professor Zinnes explained, was a prime example of the “Imagist” genre, presenting an object as is, rather than imbuing it with something else – a literary, social, or political association, for example.

so much depends 


a red wheel


glazed with rain


beside the white


If I remember correctly, Professor Zinnes said this poem was somehow inspired by a sick girl that Williams was treating. (He was a doctor.) Looking up from his patient, Williams looked out the window and saw the wheelbarrow and the chickens. The image moved him and the feeling was connected to how he felt about human frailty and, in particular, this child.

It was, as Pound would have described it, “an intellectual and emotional experience in an instant of time.”

But rather than trying to name the thought and/or feeling, he presented this external image without any reference to the sick child. By omitting any reference to the child, the poem had – at least in the opinion of some people – a more powerful and subtle effect.

Professor Zinnes also contended that the poem was equally inspired by the photography of Alfred Stieglitz. I didn’t know anything about Stieglitz at the time. I get that now.

“The Red Wheelbarrow” was published in 1922. Unfortunately for Williams, that was also the year T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land(which Pound edited) was published. The Waste Landand Pound’s own poems (includingHugh SelwynMauberleyand The Cantos) took the poetry world by storm. Williams thought that sort of poetry was too “intellectual.” And he may have been right.

I looked up ”The Red Wheelbarrow” and discovered that Williams had commented on it:

[This poem] sprang from affection for an old Negro named Marshall. He had been a fisherman, caught porgies off Gloucester. He used to tell me how he had to work in the cold in freezing weather, standing ankle deep in cracked ice packing down the fish. He said he didn’t feel cold. He never felt cold in his life until just recently. I liked that man, and his son Milton almost as much. In his back yard I saw the red wheelbarrow surrounded by the white chickens. I suppose my affection for the old man somehow got into the writing.

I admire two things about Williams: that he was trying (like Hemingway with fiction) to create a uniquely American form of poetry at a time when European literature was preeminent. I also liked the fact that he had a full-time job. Like me!

According to Wikipedia, Williams’s major collections are Spring and All (1923), The Desert Music and Other Poems(1954),Pictures From Brueghel and Other Poems (1962), and Paterson(1963).

I’ve ordered copies of those and will read every one of them. If you liked “The Red Wheelbarrow,” you might read one yourself.


 Today’s Word: querulous (adjective)

Querulous (KWER-yuh-lus) means constantly complaining, especially in a whining or petulant manner. Here’s an example from career strategist/author Marilyn Moats Kennedy that I find particularly delicious: “Politics is the process of getting along with the querulous, the garrulous, and the congenitally unlovable.”


 Fun Fact

The Netherlands is the only country with a national dog: the Keeshond.


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