Michael Spafford, b. 1935
8th Way of Looking at a Blackbird
1975

Woodblock print
16" x 20"

Seattle City Light Portable Works Collection


In 1959, Michael Spafford was a university student studying literature when he decided he wanted to learn the techniques of etching, a form of printmaking. He chose as his subject the Wallace Stevens poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking At a Blackbird" and created a series of images, one for each of the 13 sections of the poem. Thus began a long affair between the artist and the poem, an affair which has seen Spafford produce three visual interpretations in addition to the first series of etchings, two separate series of woodblock prints (1975 and 1986), and a 65-foot wide mural for the Seattle Opera House. This image is from the 1975 series and the 8th Way of Looking at a Blackbird.

The Wallace Stevens stanza is as follows:
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know
-Eighth stanza, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
by Wallace Stevens