Saturday, November 14, 2009

"Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"

For our Weekly Poem today, I’m taking a one-week sabbatical from the lesser known poets & poems that I generally love to post, & am posting a well-known poem by a well-known poet—Wallace Stevens, long a personal favorite poet, & also a long-time personal favorite poem. It’s simply a marvelous poem, & that’s ‘nuff said, because you knew that anyway. Enjoy!

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

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.

Wallace Stevens


  1. "I do not know which to prefer .... The blackbird whistling, Or just after"
    Wonderfully evocative stuff. Great poem.

  2. Ah, the classic! Thanks for posting this, John. I look forward to your weekly poems.

  3. Hi Alan & T

    Alan: Calling this a great poem is not overstating your case!

    T: I appreciate that a lot. Thanks!

  4. Alan Burnett has quoted my favourite stanza, which I think is a complete poem.


Thanks for stopping by & sharing your thoughts. Please do note, however, that this blog no longer accepts anonymous comments. All comments are moderated. Thanks for your patience.