SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A BLACKBIRD

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THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A BLACKBIRD
By Wallace Stevens

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.


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


Editor’s Note: For my son, who is thirteen months today. May we gain the perspective necessary to look at anything thirteen ways before acting upon it. May we observe and revere nature as Wallace Stevens does, taking the time to consider each blackbird thirteen ways. May we remember that “A man and a woman and a blackbird / Are one,” that we are all one. And though we stand now, precariously perched upon “the edge / Of one of many circles,” may we right our collective wrongs and rise above, as so many blackbirds.

Wallace Stevens: (1879 – 1955) was an American Modernist poet. He was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, educated at Harvard and then New York Law School, and he spent most of his life working as an executive for an insurance company in Hartford, Connecticut. 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 (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry), just a year before his death. (Annotated biography courtesy of Wikipedia and The Academy of American Poets, with edits.)

Want more from Wallace Stevens?
The Poetry Foundation
The Academy of American Poets

About Sivan Butler-Rotholz

Sivan is the Contributing Editor of the Saturday Poetry Series on As It Ought To Be and holds an MFA from Brooklyn College. She is a professor, writer, editor, comic artist, and attorney emerita. She is also the founder of Reviving Herstory. Sivan welcomes feedback, poetry submissions, and solicitations of her writing via email at sivan.sf [at] gmail [dot] com.
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2 Responses to SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A BLACKBIRD

  1. Maya Elashi says:

    Rain rather the snow here has definitely made for ‘//evening all afternoon.//’ These 13 are so, so ~ one could take them 10,000 different ways. What a pedagogy is presented here, WonderFull! Thank you, Sivan, and Happy Joy, Aidan @13 months!

  2. Clifford Spence says:

    I am enlightened.

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