Connoisseur of Chaos and Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Just a little Sunday contemplation…

The poet Wallace Stevens was born in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1879. One of my favorite poems is his “Connoisseur of Chaos” written in 1942. Another poem of his I admire greatly is “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” I sometimes try to compare the two poems but inevitably end up integrating one stanza from each poem into the other. Here is third stanza of “Connoisseur of Chaos” and the fifth stanza of “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”

“After all the pretty contrast of life and death
Proves that these opposite things partake of one,
At least that was the theory, when bishops’ books
Resolved the world. We cannot go back to that.
The squirming facts exceed the squamous mind,
If one may say so . And yet relation appears,
A small relation expanding like the shade
Of a cloud on sand, a shape on the side of a hill.”

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

Male Red-winged Blackbird at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

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