POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM # 70 – “THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A BLACKBIRD”

This week, the tables have been turned. Instead of me introducing you to new works by a previously lesser known poet, I have been taken to school on Wallace Stevens. I thank Daniel Paicopulos for steering us in Mr. Stevens direction.

More than any other modern poet, Stevens was concerned with the transformative power of the imagination. Composing poems on his way to and from the office and in the evenings, Stevens continued to spend his days behind a desk at the office, and led a quiet, uneventful life.

Though now considered one of the major American poets of the century, he did not receive widespread recognition until the publication of his Collected Poems, just a year before his death.

Stevens died in Hartford, Connecticut, on August 2, 1955.

Wallace Stevens
Wallace Stevens – 1879-1955
THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A BLACKBIRD



I

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

II

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

III

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

IV

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

V

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

VI

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

VII

O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

VIII

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

IX

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

X

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

XI

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

XII

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

XIII

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

I chose this piece by Stevens for its study of a single simple subject. Keep this thought in mind as we near the next Sunday Seed! šŸ˜‰ Walt.

8 thoughts on “POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM # 70 – “THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A BLACKBIRD”

  1. I love this – and I think I have written a “13 Ways…” poem. I’ll have to dig it up. And, with my crazy schedule, I can relate to Stevens’ habit of omposing poems on his way to and from the office and in the evenings! With an hour each way in the morning and evening, I need to get better about dictating/recording my thoughts so they would eventually make it into a completed poem (instead of flying out of my head the moment I pull into the garage). Thanks for always giving us a nudge, Walt!

    • Oh how I can relate to flying out of my head! My spots include: Pulling into the garage, stepping out of the shower; getting out of bed; and getting into the car after a long walk. šŸ˜€

  2. Love this poem and the idea that something as simple (albeit complex) as a bird can inform such poetry. Also appreciate the idea that many of us write “around” the necessities of our lives– work, daily needs, etc. and yet, poetry can and will thrive

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