Friday, February 25, 2005

Wallace Stevens and Postmodernism

As you have probably guessed by now (I'm looking at you, Defeatist), I am something of a postmodernist. Jean-Francois Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition practically made me weep with relief the first time I read it; I was so astounded to find a vocabulary to express ideas that had been floating around in my psyche and attempting to make their way into full consciousness.

Thinking about this brought to mind Wallace Steven's poem "A Study of Two Pears;" but while I was looking for it, I ran into this other wonderful poem by Stevens at the Academy of American Poets. I haven't read this poem for a long time. I had forgotten how much I like it. The imagery is gorgeous, and for some reason, I always laugh at the end.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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


Kristina said...

I love this poem! As a writing exercise in a creative writing class, we had to write our own "Thirteen Ways of Looking At..." I honestly can't remember what my version was (I'm sure it wasn't very good), but maybe I'll go look for it. Thanks for posting this!

Michele said...

Oh my, I do not think I have been here before.I would remember such a wonderful blog. Simply wanted to pause and say hello.

I love this poem. Thank you.

The Defeatist said...

Yes, well, I figured. Good guess on my part, I suppose. Thanks for the link.

The Defeatist said...

Tell me about the memoir.

SB said...

This is one of my favorite poems. What a nice way to end my day, thank you.

Lucky Jackson said...

Went into a used bookstore recently to buy poetry. The owner, sweet old gentleman, directed me to a book. Opened it up and told me this was his favorite poem. Made him weep. I bought the book on the spot.

Amy said...

I find it difficult to pin down exactly what it is about this poem that is so moving, so poignant. There is a sparse quality to it that I admire.

I guess the thing that makes me want to laugh at the end is that I feel that the blackbird has the last laugh on us. The narrator is doing all this observing, percieving, and concluding, while the blackbird is busy simply living.


Billy said...

cool blog

dweller said...

Walking along the street not three days ago I heard a sound and stopping to look down on top of a trimmed garden hedge I saw a blackbird sitting still. Still chirping a bit. You could see its cheek (do birds have cheeks?) moving in and out as it sang. Blackbirds really do have the power to make you step outside of yourself for a moment. I shall print that one out.