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Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird


by Wallace Stevens

Section III Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Section III

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

  • The blackbird flies around in the wind. Its flight is like a movement in a performance called a "pantomime," in which a drama plays out through motion. A pantomime is similar to ballet, except it has a more direct connection to a story. For example, you can pantomime someone choking by putting your hands to your throat and dropping to the ground.
  • In this poem, you should take the time to appreciate the contrasts between sections. Stevens does amazing things with juxtaposition, a technique that places different images beside one another. Here the poem moves from what seemed to be winter in the first section to autumn. In the Japanese haiku form that inspires this poem, there is often a subtle reference to the seasons.
  • Stevens suggests that the seemingly random flight of the blackbird, which is buffeted around by the winds, actually has meaning in the context of the whole landscape. The movements of nature tell a hidden story.
  • The "whirling" of the blackbird sounds graceful and playful.

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