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Nature in 6 Poems

The examination of nature in poetry is a longtime convention, possibly as old as poetry itself. Nature in a poem can be a figure of speech, a symbol of an idea or emotion or person or other thing, or perhaps even an object of direct scrutiny. Alternatively, it can be something less concrete, something deliberately rendered elliptically to draw in the reader even as the reader is frustrated by an ambiguous meaning. One could say that these various effects are amplified with modern poetry, inasmuch as modern poetry is less likely than its literary antecedents to adhere strictly to traditional forms or rhyme schemes.

1. "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"

The symbolic potency of nature is evoked in Stevens's "Blackbird." In thirteen numbered stanzas varying from two to five lines, the poet presents an image of a blackbird in thirteen separate natural environments, or rather in thirteen different aspects. At the same time, the blackbird is present in frames of human activity or sentience, operating as something of a link between ordinary human experience and a rather cold natural world. For example, in the opening stanza (I), which has three lines, the blackbird has the life force, moving his eyes over an otherwise still and snowy landscape. That establishes the blackbird as a source of life within natural environment. However, it is obvious in stanza II, a three-line entry in which the poet declares himself as being of "three mines" and compares himself to a tree in which three blackbirds perch. These can be read as points of view, or standpoints, toward the found universe, with each blackbird representing a different way of taking in the novelty of experience. In III, which has only two lines, the blackbird is again reconfigured. Here he is apparently passive in the pantomime (of life), allowing the wind to determine its direction. With IV, the blackbird is not at all passive but rather at one with the life f...

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