Saturday, February 28, 2009

translation exercise

I am going to be interpreting a poetry recitation competition in a couple weeks. The other interpreter and I met today to come up with a plan and start working on translations/interpretations for the poems; the selections have been dribbling in for a few days and we needed to start working on them.

There is a large range of styles, years, types of poems. Some feel a little more straightforward in terms of translation; some are more obscure. One of the obscure poems is "Anecdote of the Jar" by Wallace Stevens. Definitely needed to start with trying to get a grasp of what Stevens intended with this one, before we know how to proceed. So I have started doing some research and it's interesting to read what others are saying.

What do you think the following poem is about? Or what is your interpretation of what it means? At the bottom of this post I will put a few links so you can see some of what I've found so far in terms of scholarly analysis of this poem.

by Wallace Stevens

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.

- - - - - LINKS - - - - -

Someone in the writing department at Penn State U. (check out the bullet at the bottom).

The Restrictive Nature of Art: A Study of Wallace Stevens' "Jar"

Humanities Colloquim

on Modern American Poetry

photograph of ceramic jar from


  1. Hmmm - but you get the one which has a sign language translation available on YouTube! Now who's the cheater *wink* ??

  2. *gasp*!!!

    I DO????

    Which one?

  3. "the road not taken" I believe!