Saturday, October 2, 2010

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Thirteen blackbirds.
Thirteen black birds.
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 innuendos,  
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.


— Wallace Stevens


Inspired by haiku, Wallace Stevens' (1879–1955) Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird consists of thirteen brief verses where each verse mentions and relates to a blackbird. Stevens  poetry was not published until his mid-30s under a pen name.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird was published under his own name in 1917 by Alfred Kreymborg in Others: An Anthology of the New Verse. The Harvard educated insurance executive's best poetry was not produced until he was in his 50s and Stevens eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens in 1955.