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November 14, 2003

Let Be Be Finale Of Seem

There are three things that are usually in my messenger bag: a laptop, a legal pad, and a book of poetry. The poetry book is the only item that is single-purposed: to give me brief respites from a busy day. I tend to read twentieth century poets, and just rotated Wallace Stevens' Collected Poems into the bag. Stevens is a personal hero to me. A contemporary of Robert Frost, he was a successful corporate lawyer in the insurance industry while writing verse on the side, causing Hart Crane in 1919 to write, "There is a man whose work makes most the rest of us quail."

For a man born in Reading, Pennsylvania who lived most of his life in New York City and Hartford, Connecticut, Wallace Stevens wrote a quintessentially southern poem (and one of my favorites):

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.

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