When “The Red Wheelbarrow” first appeared in William Carlos Williams’s 1923 collection, Spring and All, it didn’t have a title. Designated only by the Roman numeral XII, this brief poem stood among other pieces of free verse and prose. This unassuming poem has since developed an outsized reputation. Not only is it Williams’s best-known poem, but it’s also the most famous work from the modernist movement known as Imagism. Imagist poems function through an economy of language and directness of presentation, all to focus attention on a single image. This is exactly what Williams achieves in “The Red Wheelbarrow,” a meticulously structured poem that presents a simple image of a wheelbarrow. Though rendered with photographic precision, the image at the heart of this poem harbors surprising emotional complexity. This sense of complexity comes from the speaker’s insistence that “so much depends / upon” (lines 1–2) the scene they describe. We never find out what, exactly, depends on it, but it’s clear that the speaker has a sentimental attachment to the poem’s countryside setting. Popular mythology has it that the wheelbarrow was a toy that belonged to a dying child, but Williams himself said he simply saw it in a neighbor’s yard.