Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
-Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

I "rediscovered" Wallace Stevens today, scribbled his name on a torn envelope to research later.

Ah, yes, the insurance salesman! What a tag for the complex man who sat quietly behind a desk composing poems that are characterized as "exotic, whimsical, infused with the light and color of an Impressionist painting."

In Of Modern Poetry Stevens writes:

...It has not always had
To find: the scene was set; it repeated what
Was in the script.
Then the theatre was changed
To something else. Its past was a souvenir.

It has to be living, to learn the speech of the place.
It has to face the men of the time and to meet
The women of the time. It has to think about war

And it has to find what will suffice. It has
To construct a new stage. It has to be on that stage...

It occurs to me that this description might serve as a metaphor for our education system, which could once "repeat what was in the script" but now needs to "construct a new stage" and to "find what will suffice".

If only we can.


Eric Vance said...

I agree. Add to the comparison that the actors do not all want to change. What I am starting to realize is that some classroom teachers still try to remain the "expert in the room" as Richardson stated. They are not open to the idea that research and best practice might have better ideas than their "script" that they have been working on.

Anonymous said...

Wild. Love the look and feel of your blog, as well as your choice of poets. We should do Wm Carlos Wms next
So much depends...


diane said...


I got so excited at the idea of a poetry discussion (I was an English major is college, before many careers intervened) that I posted my reply to you in the wrong posting. Sorry!

Eric Vance said...

It's hard for a math guy like me to jump in a poetry discussion, but I love to read and learn. Maybe this will expand my horizons.

Carolyn Foote said...

I just saw an exhibit at the McNay Art Institute in San Antonio--

They were displaying a set of prints by David Hockney that he created to accompany a Wallace Stevens poem, which was based on the Picasso's painting, Blue Guitar.

A fascinating idea, to have the different media in play like that (like a mash-up almost).

Really enjoy your blending of poetry and educational reflection.

diane said...


If you haven't seen it yet, be sure to check out the link in think:lab to "the history of female portraiture".

Gorgeous visual poetry.