Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.
Some procedural principles of my own:
(a) a reading shouldn't exceed 500 words;
(b) I randomly chose the following passage from Deleuze-Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus to serve as a general 'paratext' for my reading of Stevens's opening verse:
"But to break the becoming-animal all that is needed is to extract a segment from it, to abstract one of its moments, to fail to take into account its internal speeds and slownesses, to arrest the circulation of affects. (p. 260 from Chapter 10. 1730: "Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible...");
(c) I don't like to talk about linguistic units but rather about more interesting lines of flight or deterritorialization;
(d) I view the poem (and its first verse) as a map "with multiple entryways and exits";
(e) I regard the critic's language as always "acentered, nonhierarchical, nonsignifying"; and
(f) I offer my first reading of Stevens's "Thirteen Ways: I" as a general description only.
Twenty mountains and thirteen ways. Snowy habitat and a solitary blackbird distinguishable not by wing, tail but eye only. The poet's first verse is a bird's moving eye. The significant question is whether the poem's a "program" for transformative viewing or a lyricist's plain and simple address.
To me it's clear. We don't ever dare to take from the bird's true motion a single identifiable (read codifiable) moment and treat it as Stevens's true poem (haecceity): we continue the rêve, transported by the object's physicality and potential to move freely over the white plane of true flight. It's potential to mix flight and feeling at the same time is something which will be eventually regarded as its primary "becoming-animal" experience.
Snowy mountains don't form a backdrop for flying blackbirds as much as simple speeds do, & rates of descent and slow-moving flight formations across the sky. An interiorized type of flight, in particular, that can't be expressed initially as anything but a synecdoche. But more than that. Landscapes over which the eye of flight roams can't (as in aerial photography) really be plotted as points, depressions or peaks for a bird's eye in flight is a total of "speeds and affects". Stevens's first way is then an assemblage and not a set of decipherable coordinates.
Furthermore, it's a question of eye for eye: the slowing, transformative power of bird-vision in place of an authoritative (which in the case of humans may even become voyeuristic) viewing that's always centered, always full of meanings. Eye does not co-opt eye. Slowing with the blackbird in mid-flight over snowy valleys is not a type of arrested activity, tracked on the viewer's sensory radar And since this type of moving has been interiorized, the only way to distinguish the "moving thing" from its environment is to see the bird's body as a smooth planar surface over which the viewer and viewed pass as flights towards a new deterritorialized 'site' .
Stevens's bodiless eye is permissible only because of a truer body of which it is part. The moving eye can be said to belong to a much more general Body, organless, smooth and always tied to flows, a site for traces of flights rather than a knowledge grid. Lines in Stevens's opening verse are striations ("schizzes"). The flying eye is where one among many entryways into (and exits out of) the essentially heterogeneous Body of flight can be envisaged: with space always for one more ( n+1) Viewing the blackbird's flying eye is a becoming-animal, a radically liberatory sense of engaged reading.
What does "the eye of the blackbird" signify? Nothing that frees us this easily from the rooted strictures of 'text' need fear stoppage of bird flight (poem's primary flow) or the threat of lexical units supplanting flights and entryways altogether. Or even twenty mountains and thirteen ways.