Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

I often see titles borrowed from this poem, most recently Jane Smiley’s Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel. (I have actually come across more than one law review article called Thirteen Ways of Looking at [insert legal topic here].) The works that follow seldom have much to do with the poem. And so for a reason no more complicated than that we’ve just thrown fourteen ways of looking at the French out there for your pleasure, I thought it would be a good thing to let Wallace Stevens speak for himself, for once.  You’ll find it below the fold —

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.


2 thoughts on “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

  1. What a wonderful poem. Yet another by Wallace Stevens.Thanks for sharing him. I can see why you like him so much. Enough to spin a novel around him, which is your thirteen ways to look at Wallace Stevens? Often, I like to read a good poem like that just before I write or revise one of mine, which is what I’m going to do now. Thank you.

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