Friday, February 10, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging: Dominion Wide Mouth

Jo(e) recommends that we put up poetry on Fridays.

Wallace Stevens
“Anecdote of the Jar”

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion every where.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

Apparantly, Stevens was inspired by a jar called the "Dominion Wide Mouth Special" like the one pictured above.

I think it worth noting that Stevens as he wrote the poem must have had in mind a specific fruit jar, the "Dominion Wide Mouth Special."... Although manufactured in Canada, the jar has been widely distributed in the United States from 1913 to the present, The exemplar photographed dates ca. 1918; Stevens was in fact traveling in Tennessee in April and May 1918. ... As a "wide mouth special," the jar is particularly notable, of its kind, as "tall and of a port in air." And its glass, compared to that of other fruit jars, is especially "gray and bare." Whether in Tennessee in 1918 fruit jars were used as containers for "moonshine," I have not been able to establish definitively. Surely, granting Stevens’ penchant for "moon" and "shine," the matter is worth investigating.
--From Roy Harvey Pearce, "’Anecdote of the Jar’": An Iconological Note," The Wallace Stevens Journal 1:2 (Summer 1977), 65

Text and photo from here.


Anonymous said...

It seems Mr. Pearce's comment is driven by a Reductionistic desire. It is an attempt to bring the poem to the ground by identifying the historical and physical elements that ostensibly provoked its writing.
The poem is as mysterious and, as affecting as the phenomenon of chaos upon which it touches.
The poem allows the experience of emotion which should be allowed to exist-beyond the attempt to make explanation.

Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

I don't find the historical background reductionist at all. It gives a new dimension to my appreciation of the poem.