Investigations in Modern American Poetry

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date

April 2016

Faculty Sponsor

Jeffrey Westover


The first idea that is impressed on the reader by Wallace Stevens’ poem sequence “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” is the specific choice of thirteen ways in which blackbirds can be imaged. Just as the number thirteen is indivisible, Stevens addresses the necessity of both the real and imagined in works of art to capture the true essence of life as a human. “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” demonstrates the interdependence of imagination and reality by changing perspectives throughout the sequence and provoking the reader to imagine new depths to old ideas. Stevens finds meaning without applying generic symbols like a formula, instead relying on human emotion and an appeal to the senses to create new meanings. The different points of view function as a movement into the next stage of thinking in which both real and imagined blackbirds are aspects of reality.

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