Today is the birthday of American poet Wallace Stevens (1879-1955). Wallace won the Pulitzer Prize in 1955 even though he never worked as a full-time poet. His day job was as an executive for an insurance company in Hartford, Connecticut.
One of Stevens’ best-known poems is “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” The poem captures the essence of poetry, a form of writing that challenges both the writer and the reader to “look” at the world from different perspectives and to see it in new ways. In the tradition of Imagism, a poetic movement that emphasizes precise imagery and clear, concrete diction, Stevens presents thirteen numbered stanzas, each featuring a different way of seeing the ordinary blackbird (1).
As you can see in stanzas 1 and 5 below, Stevens’ language in influenced by the haiku form, combining concrete descriptions of nature with philosophical contemplation:
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
Today’s Challenge: Ways of Looking – the Seven “Sees”
What are ways you can see the world in a new way and from different perspectives even on an ordinary day in an ordinary place? Writing itself, in its various forms, is an excellent way of looking at the world from different perspectives. The different modes of writing described below mirror the various ways our brain organizes and processes information. Select one topic — a person, place, object, or idea — to examine; then, explore that one idea in at least 7 of the 13 ways listed below:
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Writing Topic
- Description: Create a picture in words of what it looks like, sounds like, feels like, smells like, and/or tastes like.
- Comparison and Contrast: Explain what is it like and what it is not like.
- Cause and Effect: Explain where it came from and how it impacts the world.
- Definition: Explain exactly what is it called, what it means, and what makes it distinctive from other things.
- Narrative: Tell as a story related to it that involves real people in conflict.
- Exemplification: Make a generalization about it; then, support the generalization by giving specific examples that illustrate and explain it.
- Argumentation: State a claim related to it, and provide your reasoning and evidence to prove your claim is valid.
- Problem and Solution: Explain conflicts that arise because of it, and how those conflicts can or might be resolved.
- Process: Explain how something happens related to it by giving a step by step sequence.
- Division and Classification: Identify its different parts and its different types.
- Poetry: Explore ideas related to it in verse, imagery, and/or figurative language.
- Fiction: Create a story about it that has a narrative point of view, characters, conflict, climax, resolution, and themes.
- Drama: Create a dramatic situation around it, with characters, conflict, and dialogue. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)
Quotation of the Day: It is not every day that the world arranges itself in a poem. -Wallace Stevens