• Christine Delea

April 30: Thirteen Ways

This may be one of the oldest poetry prompts, but it is still around because it gets results. After a month of writing a poem each day, your brain may need a fool-proof prompt and this is it!

Read Wallace Stevens' famous poem, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," and then write your own poem exploring different ways of looking at something. Students of mine have written funny poems about pizza, confessional poems about their mother's hands, and surreal poems about the sky.

Strive for thirteen, separated into sections as Stevens did, but feel free to look at something in however many ways feels honest for your poem.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

by Wallace Stevens


Among twenty snowy mountains,

The only moving thing

Was the eye of the blackbird.


I was of three minds,

Like a tree

In which there are three blackbirds.


The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.

It was a small part of the pantomime.


A man and a woman

Are one.

A man and a woman and a blackbird

Are one.


I do not know which to prefer,

The beauty of inflections

Or the beauty of innuendoes,

The blackbird whistling

Or just after.


Icicles filled the long window

With barbaric glass.

The shadow of the blackbird

Crossed it, to and fro.

The mood

Traced in the shadow

An indecipherable cause.


O thin men of Haddam,

Why do you imagine golden birds?

Do you not see how the blackbird

Walks around the feet

Of the women about you?


I know noble accents

And lucid, inescapable rhythms;

But I know, too,

That the blackbird is involved

In what I know.


When the blackbird flew out of sight,

It marked the edge

Of one of many circles.


At the sight of blackbirds

Flying in a green light,

Even the bawds of euphony

Would cry out sharply.


He rode over Connecticut

In a glass coach.

Once, a fear pierced him,

In that he mistook

The shadow of his equipage

For blackbirds.


The river is moving.

The blackbird must be flying.


It was evening all afternoon.

It was snowing

And it was going to snow.

The blackbird sat

In the cedar-limbs.

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