The Bird with the Coppery, Keen Claws

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The Bird With The Coppery, Keen Claws is a poem from Wallace Stevens's first book of poetry, Harmonium. It was originally published in 1921, so it is in the public domain.[1] Librivox has made the poem available in voice recording in its The Complete Public Domain Poems of Wallace Stevens.[1]

The Bird With The Coppery, Keen Claws

 Above the forest of the parakeets,
 A parakeet of parakeets prevails,
 A pip of life amid a mort of tails.

 (The rudiments of tropics are around,
 Aloe of ivory, pear of rusty rind.)
 His lids are white because his eyes are blind.

 He is not paradise of parakeets,
 Of his gold ether, golden alguazil,
 Except because he broods there and is still.

 Panache upon panache, his tails deploy
 Upward and outward, in green-vented forms,
 His tip a drop of water full of storms.

 But though the turbulent tinges undulate
 As his pure intellect applies its laws,
 He moves not on his coppery, keen claws.

 He munches a dry shell while he exerts
 His will, yet never ceases, perfect cock,
 To flare, in the sun-pallor of his rock.

Vivid Imagism blends with light-hearted rhyming in this poem that evokes a tropical clime. Leiter deems it one of Stevens's "most impenetrable" poems, containing "oxymoronic images" whose conflicting meanings must be held in abeyance. (This may not be far from the `Wilson effect' mentioned in the main Harmonium essay.) Bates compares the poem to Infanta Marina as a model of Stevens's use of a symbol to invest a landscape with his feeling for it.[1] The aura of mystery that is characteristic of Stevens's naturalistic studies is evident here in the parakeet's brooding, his pure intellect applying its laws, and his exertion of his will. Compare The Curtains in the House of the Metaphysician for another expression of Stevens's enigmatic naturalism.


  1. ^ a b Bates, p. 139


  • Bates, Milton J. Wallace Stevens: A Mythology of Self. 1985: University of California Press.
  • Leiter, Louis H. "Sense in Nonsense: Wallace Stevens' "The Bird with the Coppery, Keen Claws". 1965: College English (Vol 26, No 7)