Revisiting Classic Poems and Rediscovering How Good They Are – 13 Blackbirds

yes, I read it in college, and was told how good it was, but at that age and level of experience I wasn’t remotely ready to love this poem. Now, though–just taste these lines:

– The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds
– With barbaric glass
– An indecipherable cause
– lucid, inescapable rhythms
– Even the bawds of euphony

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
by 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 “Revisiting Classic Poems and Rediscovering How Good They Are – 13 Blackbirds

  1. I love this poem…thanks for sharing it again, Elliott… I’m just reading and re-reading and was trying to pick out a line that strikes me most on this read, and I just can’t choose. I was just thinking it would be cool to use each section as an epigraph for a poem, one a day for the next thirteen days and then see what you come up with… OR use each line as the title or first line for a new poem, each day for the next 54 days… or one a week for just over a year… do they make connections and take you a million places all at once like Stevens does here? If I have to choose one line for today, and I don’t know why: “or the beauty of innuendos” Maybe I’ll go see where it takes me!

  2. Ohh, good ideas! I HAVE to get back to writing, so I think the challenge of a poem in response somehow to each part is a great idea!

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