12 13 Ways of Looking


1. Read the poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens.


2. Read it again. This is not a poem you can get anything from by reading it once. In fact, read it 3 or more times. Really. (When asked about the poem, Stevens said it wasn’t about meaning, but about sensation.)


3. Read these other poems, each inspired by Stevens:

4. Choose an object. Something specific and concrete, something in the world. Preferably, something that has some sort of meaning or resonance for you.


5. Write a “Thirteen Ways of Looking at _______” poem.


6. VARIATION: This exercise works well with a partner. You can trade off stanzas, or even lines. If you stick with 13 ways of looking, then you’ll have an odd number of stanzas; you can either collaborate on at least one stanza or expand the number of stanzas in the poem.

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