Thursday, June 25, 2009

Meditation on Steven's Thirteen Blackbirds

Of the several explored so far, I love this poem. But my tastes are peculiar some might say. Let me start by explaining my starting methodology.

In phenomenology, we look at how experiences avail themselves without presupposing anything about the phenomena under reflection. In this way, aspects of the world come into view, but never the world as whole. Instead, experience is likened to a field (as in Merleau-Ponty), with each field availing itself in our reflective attention to the implicit structures that we commonly taken for granted. In acts of perception, objects of perception are never revealed with all sides showing. There is always some profile of the object kept from us. When approaching a table, I only see the top when looking directly down on it. If I walk around it, only two legs are showing while the other two are concealed from my vantage point.

In the same way, poetry can be an exercise to let phenomena avail themselves, and this is what, I feel, Stevens achieves. He is a phenomenologist about blackbirds, letting various experiences of the blackbird reveal themselves in our experience. Each stanza is fragmented, only unified by the fact that the poet is paying attention to the various experiences of blackbirds either perceptually or symbolically.

In I, we open to a still vista of snowy mountains. If you've skied, say Vermont, you will know that winter is silent, and cold. The stillness of snow lies in its blanket whiteness across the horizon of my vision at the top of the mountain. Stark contrasting colors stand out, brought into relief by the blanket whitenss of snow. If a blackbird gazed at me in this still whiteness, I would feel it, too, was “the only moving thing.”

In IV, I perplexed, and for good reason. How is that men and women are united by poets? Usually, love is the answer. In this case, a man and women are first united. Then, the blackbird is united with them. In this case, perhaps, men and women are one in aspects of love, but are further unified in the existential realization that human lives are finite, experiencing their own mortality in the symbolism of the unity with the blackbird.

In VI, moods are disclosed in moments where moods have cognitive content, at least in Heidegger. They have a primordial relationship to experience as they tend to fill out and “color” my experience in general. Jagged wild icicles carve up my field of vision in the window, and eery shadows move crossing my visual field “to and fro.”

In XII, we see a river moving, and the blackbird is said to be flying. Objects are given only in relation to a nexus of other objects, or so say the phenomenologists. My leaning on the bed with the computer is for blogging which presupposes the keyboard to share my thoughts. In this experience, I my blogging, the computer screen and the keyboard all give rise to sharing my thoughts. In the same way, when the river moves, it appears to move in relation to those that can see it, as a blackbird flying above it. Yet, viewing the river moving must be actively viewed from the top of it. As such, when the river moves, so too does the flier perceiving it.

Just some thoughts.

1 comment:

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