English 254                   Class #9           Mon, April 28

Cummings, “Buffalo Bill’s”        Stevens, “Emperor of Ice Cream,”

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”


“Buffalo Bill’s”:


  1. Does the poem honor Buffalo Bill or defame him? How does the speaker seem to

feel about Buffalo Bill? How do you know?



  1. What are the connotations and denotations of the word “defunct? How would the meaning change if he used the word “dead” instead?



  1. What’s the effect of giving an entire line to “Buffalo Bill” (line 1), “defunct” (2), stallion (5) Jesus (7) and Mister Death (11)?



  1. What is gained by running the numbers together? And why would he run together "blueeyed” boy?



  1. What is gained by the form of the poem, the line breaks and indentations?

            The typographical placement of "Jesus" allows it to refer to the lines that both

            precede and follow it. What is gained by that?



  1. What is the point of this poem?



Wallace Stevens


"The Emperor of Ice Cream"

1. Who is the speaker and what’s the situation here?



2. What images are used, and is there a pattern?



3. What’s the tone of the speaker?



4. It isn’t until the second stanza that we’re conscious of the details describing a wake, but what intimations of this do we have earlier in the poem?


5. What are some of the details that suggest the tawdriness of the room where the dead woman is lying? What does it mean, that this poem seems to be about the wake of a tawdry prostitute who died, probably, too young?



6. How do you interpret line 7, “Let be be finale of seem”?



7. What does the poem’s refrain mean: “The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream”? 

            [note that Stevens asserted the line has complex moral implications.



“Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” (1928)

1.      What connotations and denotations attach to actual blackbirds and the idea of blackbirds? Which of these might Stevens be playing off of in this poem?



2.      How effective are the winter landscapes? What do they add to your understanding of the meaning of the poem?



3.      The first half of section IV suggests sexual union. The second half does not. To what could he be referring?



4.      In section V, what is an inflection? What is innuendo? How do they relate to the blackbird whistling? Or just after?



5.      Are images alone enough to provide meaning in this poem?



6.      In section VII, how do golden birds compare with black birds? What is the speaker’s attitude toward the thin men of Haddam? What’s implied by calling them thin?



7.      Does the poem seem an arbitrary combination of thirteen separate poems, or is there reason to call it a whole? Can you find a justification for its beginning with Part I and ending with Part XIII?



1.      What might be the theme of this poem?