While caring for a sick child at the child's home William Carlos Williams (1883-1963), a paedtrician by profession, looked outside the window and saw the wet red wheelbarrow. He wrote this poem quickly in less than five minutes just like an impressionist painter would paint quickly in order to capture the precise quality of light of a particular moment: "glazed with rain/water" - if he had delayed writing the poem the wetness would have dried up and the glaze would have disappeared.
"The Red Wheelbarrow" (1923) is one of Willaims' early poems and is influenced by 'Precisionism' an artistic movement in America which peaked during the interwar period. 'Precision' artists shunned European influences, and as the term itself suggests their paintings were very objective and clearly defined almost like the 'photorealists' of the next generation. Just before Williams wrote this poem Williams had met Charles Sheeler the photographer journalist and a self-proclaimed 'precisionist.'
The poem expresses in the starkest and simplest manner possible the practical usefulness of a wheelbarrow on a farm. There is a sharp ironic contrast-almost haiku like- between the sick room 'inside' and the daily routine of the practical affairs of the farmhouse 'outside.'
E.E.Cummings (1894-1962) a contemporary of William Carlos Williams and like him who was influenced by Ezra Pound and the Imagists wrote this poem as a tribute to the legend 'Buffalo Bill.' Buffalo Bill is none other than William Frederick Cody who earned the nickname 'Buffalo Bill' after having killed 4860 bison to supply meat to the Kansas Pacific Railroad workers.
Both the poems are short and have been influenced by avant garde twentieth century poetic techniques. Of the two poets Cummings is more innovative as can be seen by the line,
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
which captures very vividly the image of Buffalo Bill shooting at the clay pigeons in rapid succession.
William Carlos Williams poem is about a real life incident whereas Cummings' poem is about a legendary figure, nevertheless the subject of both these poem is human mortality.
William Carlos Williams poem deals with the ironic contrast between the world of the sick room and the life outside and the apparent indifference to the death of the small child by the outside world. Cummings' poem treats the passing away of the legend and he questions death as to its reason for taking away Buffalo Bill from this world and whether it is pleased to do so.