In A sort of Song and in The Red Wheelbarrow, Williams confronts "how" a poem should be written. It should not be used as a vehicle for expressing ideas but showing the essence of things. He was one of the first imagist poets. His poem The Red Wheelbarrow also confronts the way a poem should be written. In his poem he is saying that the subject matter of a poem should be in the things, themselves, not in ideas or beliefs or any abstract concept. He shows us, as readers, how to really see a thing, especially in The Red Wheelbarrow. That poem achieves a way of "seeing" or perceiving a thing, and a way of writing a poem.
"No ideas but in things" was an Imagist philosophy that embraced the idea of written expression in clear, sharp, minimal words, and Williams' poem exemplifies this philosophy very well. "The Red Wheelbarrow" is just a very few lines describing a common field implement sitting "glazed with rain," and represents Williams' belief that the journey to truth began with the most ordinary of objects, and that a human's ultimate search for reality would be found in these same items. The reader is immediately confronted with reality in the first line, "so much depends," and is led to wonder what (and who) might depend on this particular red wheelbarrow. Williams' career was relatively young when he wrote this poem, and the Imagist philosphy that influenced him was relatively young, about a decade old.