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Thirteen Ways Of Looking At A Blackbird

Wallace Stevens

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Added by: Brian Cooper
Stanza VIII uses the strangely vague verb form “is involved/In.” Why use a near euphemism instead of something active, strong, and precise such as “questions,” or “colors.” In this case, passivity and imprecision serve the mood and meaning of the poem. The word “but” signals that the blackbird in some way complicates the speaker’s sense of power expressed in “I know,” but the bird does not do this consciously. The bird, like the speaker, does not act; its role is one of being, of participation in a shared existence among the speaker, objective reality, and thoughts.
Stevens' Thirteen Ways...
Added by: P. A. Merrill
This is my second favorite Stevens poem, just short of "The Anecdote of The Prince of Peacocks," which I still haven't figgered out, it just gives me the creeps. "Thirteen Ways..." is similar in that, upon first approach, the reader starts searching for meaning and trying to sort symbols and meataphors. Instead, 13 times, we read little snippets that seem snatched from other poems by other poets, all producing the same creepy uncertainty. I'll admit that the image of a blackbird carries it's own baggage as a metaphor, but my sense is that the image may just as well been a Red Wheelbarrow. Recall that Stevens' was writing in the Golden Age of Modern Poetry, lots was going on and I read the poem as an abstract experiment portraying similar scenes in the stlyes of other poets. Also recall that "The Man with The Blue Guitar" used images from Picasso as a starting point. I'm not good enough to prove this by putting a poet's name to every stanza, but I can't read "An indecipherable cause" without thinking of T. S. Eliot's "...Proofrock," or "the edge/Of one of many circles" without being reminded of Yeats and his darned gyres. Satnza XI, "Connecticut" might be Sandburg, VII, "Haddam," seems very Old Testament, V, "whistling" sounds just a little like Robinson Jeffers, and I'm sure Ezra Pound, WCW and others are in there, too.

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