Sequoia Audubon Society January Monthly Meeting with Mary Ellen Hannibal!

Davena Gentry

"Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" is one of Wallace Stevens' most beloved poems, taught in many an English class, and accessible even to those who don't love poetry. Given the seasonality of the poem, it is likely Stevens was writing about a Rusty Blackbird, evidently so common as to be taken for granted as part of the scenery. The bird is not given a name, a history, or its own reality outside the mind of the poet.

In this presentation, noted Bay Area author Mary Ellen Hannibal will take a look at Stevens' poem alongside the natural history and current situation of the Rusty Blackbird. Questioning whether Stevens was really looking at a blackbird and not just thinking about one, she will highlight how citizen science helps reveal the deepest truths about the world. She'll discuss how the group mind of citizen science, which aggregates millions of individual observations into discernable patterns, has an emerging poetry all its own. And the blackbird “is involved” in a starring role.

Mary Ellen Hannibal is the author of numerous significant works on the ecology of our times, most prominently Citizen Scientist and The Spine of the Continent. She has been a speaker in the Wallace Stegner Lecture Series with Peninsula Open Space Trust, and delivered a TedTalk on Citizen Science in 2020. She has been a favorite speaker at Sequoia before, and it is an honor to welcome her back.

Sequoia Audubon Society has consistently forefronted the importance of participatory science initiatives like eBird, iNaturalist, and official seasonal Bird Counts. We have also endeavored to make birding multidimensional, understanding how it includes science, art, literature, history, and all dimensions of community. This talk will unite many of these elements.

Please register here:

"Socializing" at 6:30, the meeting will start at 7pm! 


For those wanting to re-read the Wallace Stevens’ poem in advance -