Friday, June 22, 2007

Wallace Stevens

Wallace Stevens is one of my favorite poets and this poem is a particular favorite:

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird (excerpts)

5.
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes.
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

9.
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

The rest of the poem is here.

Often when I see or hear something especially lovely I think of that first stanza. The silence of reflection after the sight or sound is what allows it to sink in and resonate. On those occasions of monumental change, such as a graduation or major move, I think of stanza nine above. The contrast of what the blackbird sees (continuous progression without boundaries) and what we see (a line at the horizon; progressive boundaries) perfectly illustrates changing perspectives.

I think I first read this poem in college and these two sections have stayed with me. In my mind they seem to be a kind of haiku. When I found the poem in Nancie Atwell’s book Lessons That Change Writers I was delighted to see how she uses it to teach students how to tease apart meaning by looking at the sections separately and then the poem as a whole. She asks her students to list the thirteen ways of looking Stevens uses in his poem. She says,
“What it did for us was lay bare some of the literary, cultural, and historical perspectives that Stevens packed into his remarkable poem. Attempting to name what Stevens did set the stage for students to feel confident about trying “ways” poems of their own. I told kids, “You could do this.”

Atwell and her students list the perspectives Stevens uses to see a blackbird. They include: “The blackbird as a tiny detail in a vast landscape, a simile, a metaphorical math problem, a philosophical proposition, a mystery story, a sermon, a metaphysical geometry problem, a legend , a fairy tale, a pearl of folk wisdom, and a view of something at the end of the world”. The more closely one looks at this poem, the more beauty and sophistication one sees. I am inspired by the poem itself and by the way Atwell uses it to teach and encourage her student poets.

The Poetry Friday round up is here today. Please leave a link to your poetry post here. Then come back later in the day to click on the links to other blogger’s contributions. TGIPF!



31 comments:

Shelley said...

Gotta go catch a train! Looking forward to reading everyone else's offerings when we get back...

John Mutford said...

My offering is a critique of Margaret Atwood's poem, "You Fit Into Me".

HipWriterMama said...

I'm in with My Favorite Things and Mr. Linky so people can link to their favorite posts!

cloudscome said...

Wow you two are quick! I haven't even finished editing my post and you are jumping in. LOL I am having Internet problems today. I have been up since the crack of dawn but I couldn't get online. I had to wake up Buster and borrow his laptop with the neighbor's wireless. Oy. His USB ports don't work so I couldn't use my flash drive to import the already written posts. I burned them on a CD and then found out he didn't have MS Word installed. I finally found his texteditor that would open my doc and got this up. Anything for Poetry!

Beaucoup Thanks to Buster for being so gracious and waking up to help us out in the dawn's early light.

Tricia said...

Good Morning!
I'm in with two poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Have a great weekend.
Tricia

LiteracyTeacher said...

Looking forward to reading everyone's poems this week!

M.F. Atkins said...

I'm in with Naomi Shihab Nye!

Mitali Perkins said...

I desperately need help today -- I'm in the throes of judging my poetry contest and I've narrowed the choices to the top four. Now I have to award the prizes, and I need you to weigh in.

RM1(SS) (ret) said...

I have another song to share, since it insists on being part of my life this week: "When the Red, Red Robin."

Sarah Amick said...

I've got a poem about the summertime mommy. I used the format from Donald Graves I found at Penny Kittles site. It has one repetitious line throughout. It was a great exercise! Love to read all the great poetry. It's a very great way to kick off the weekend.
Cloudscome thank you for hosting, sorry it was such a crazy morning.

Liz in Ink said...

I love Stevens... Thank you for this...
I wrote about first lines today...

Michele said...

Ah linky !! I posted my offering hours and hours ago, but have been so busy working, I'd forgotten to come back and see if you had posted !

Sorry to hear you've had such a stressful time doing this - thanks so much for rounding up !

Sorceress said...

Such a beautiful blog! Look forward to reading everyone's offerings.

Thanks for the Blackbird reflections. I definitely prefer the 'just after' of any beautiful moment.

Christine M said...

Thanks for hosting. I'm in with a memory poem written by my daughter.

MotherReader said...

Hey, I've got my picture book review of Jack Prelutsky's poem ME I AM!

You'll love it A.

Oh, and I took a picture of the frame with the photo, but I took it on my camera phone and don't know how to get it off. As soon as I get some husbandly assistance with that, I'll email it to you. It looked good! Thanks again.

Kelly Fineman said...

I'm in with Midsummer by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

Nancy said...

Thanks for doing the round-up. I took the time to read all the way through "Death of the Hired Man" by Robert Frost today, and I listened to the audio too, and loved both. So both are posted for your reading enjoyment at http://journey-woman.blogspot.com/2007/06/little-poetry-for-you-frost.html.

Kim from Hiraeth said...

I posted a picture I took while on vacation in Wisconsin last summer as an illustration of Thoreau's "Mist."

Mary Lee said...

Happy Summer, everyone! I'm sharing one of my favorite Sara Teasdale poems.

Katie said...

Thanks for doing the round-up today! Sorry you had computer problems.

I've got some Dr. Seuss about Birthdays because today I'm celebrating mine and my friend had a baby yesterday, so birthdays are all around me!

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Wallace Stevens' blackbird poem never gets old for me, especially #5. I enjoy reading poems inspired by "13 Ways..." too. My offering this morning is a Joy Harjo poem called "She Had Some Horses."

Susan said...

Thanks for rounding up, Cloudscome.

I am in with a photo & poem via the British Museum.

:: Suzanne :: said...

thanks for hosting! I posted a summerish Luci Shaw poem.

:: Suzanne :: said...

oh, and I included the coding for the button and link

and

I decrashed my blog, so if you've had trouble in the past and avoiding visiting, please give it another go. I took off a lot of troublesome bells and whistles.

Monica - books are our friends said...

really loving poetry friday. mine's a jack prelutsky poem too.

Charlotte said...

I'm in with Owen and Mzee and D.H.Lawrence's poem Tortoise Family Connections.

thanks!

Becky said...

Mr. Linky won't work for me today, but I have Robert Graves's "Warning to Children" today...

http://farmschoolathome.blogspot.com/2007/06/poetry-friday-warning-to-children.html

Thanks for rounding up!

Schelle said...

Thanks for the commentary on Wallace Stevens and the excerpts from Atwell - very enjoyable! I have posted Galway Kinnell's St Francis & the Sow.

John Mutford said...

I wasn't familiar with the Wallace Stevens poem. Coincidentally, just after reading your exerpts, I returned to reading An Ear To The Ground: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry and I came across Raymond R. Patterson's "Twenty-Six Ways of Looking at a Blackman". Thanks for adding some additional perspective!

Sam Riddleburger said...

For my first every Poetry Friday I'm sharing a haiku two kids wrote for my haiku showcase.

Overwhelmed! said...

Wow! I didn't realize we had so many poets in Blogland. That's awesome! I'm going to go read more. :)