Friday 8 February 2013

Day 231: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Wallace Stevens' main theme in his poetry was the mighty rein of the imagination. And this poem, 'Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird' has become not only a staple of modernist poetry, but also a classic in its own right, as well as proof positive of his thesis. 

Who ever said there's only one way to look at things? Poets, like many other people I'm sure, prefer multiple. Therein lies the fun. From the reality (last stanza -and last on his list of priorities...) through all the realms of the imagination (every other stanza). Let the adventure begin!:

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird - Wallace Stevens

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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?

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

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

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

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

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

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


  1. Bonjour Siobhan, "my god!" encore lui! oui je ne peux m'empêcher de poser un commentaire :-) le titre de ce poème est un poème à lui tout seul; je l'avais noté, il y a longtemps pour m'en inspirer en peinture plus tard, par respect, quand je serais meilleur peintre.

  2. Bonsoir Thige - vous avez raison, oui, le titre de ce poéme est un poéme á lui tout seul - en effet!
    Je suis bien content de ce que vous aimez ce poéme et je vous remercie pour votre commentaire, comme toujours Thige! Wallace Stevens est un poéte extraordinaire! :)

  3. :-) :-) merci Siobhan


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