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Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird


by Wallace Stevens

Section XII Summary

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

Section XII

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

  • Yet another section that has many possible interpretations. At this point the poem moves away from human society and back to a purely natural setting.
  • The speaker notices that the river is moving and concludes from this that the blackbird must be flying.
  • But aren't rivers always moving? Well, usually, yes. That would mean that the blackbird is always flying. Maybe the speaker wishes to highlight its restless activity.
  • But there's another possibility. Remember how we mentioned that haikus frequently make reference to the seasons. The "movement" of the river could refer to the melting of a frozen river at the end of the winter. When the river melts, it means that spring is coming and time for the blackbird to migrate.
  • We think it's important that this section is written in the present tense, while most other sections are in the past tense.

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