I placed a jar in Tennessee,
      And round it was, upon a hill.

So begins the Wallace Stevens poem "Anecdote of the Jar". I've been trying to memorize it for quite a while, most recently during a long plane trip. It has a fascinating modest-mysterious rhythm, and is one of the few "modern" poems that appeals to my inner ear enough for me to want to learn it and make it my own. Don't ask why.

And for equally obscure neurological reasons, yesterday while driving in to the office I suddenly remembered another Tennessee anecdote, one which hasn't crossed my consciousness for decades. Circa 1976 --- that must have been the year, plus or minus one, since peripheral associations place me in the old Bridge Physics Building ground-floor shared office space with a few other Caltech grad students --- I was listening to a Los Angeles radio station as an announcer read the morning news. A wire service item told of a truck accident involving the release of unspecified "nuclear" materials somewhere in Tennessee.

My ear was caught, I know not why, so more I sought; but though I tried, there was no further news concerning this enigmatic event. I phoned the broadcaster --- an uncharacteristic ^z attempt to follow up --- and a voice confirmed that yes, they had read that piece, but no, there was nothing else on it. The next morning I checked the newspapers and likewise found nichevo there.

Was it a minor incident, unworthy of follow-up? Or a garble, a misunderstanding, a hoax, or a non-event? Nowadays, post-Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, I can't imagine such a story left hanging so. And what with the 'Net and the wondrous flood of unfiltered instant information and opinion that it offers, countless conspiracy theories would no doubt spring up and flourish around that tiny news blip.

Instead, my mind was left ajar, in Tennessee upon a hill ...

TopicPoetry - TopicPersonalHistory - 2003-08-01


August 1979

Highly enriched uranium was released from a top-secret nuclear fuel plant near Erwin, Tennessee. About 1,000 people were contaminated with up to 5 times as much radiation as would normally be received in a year. Between 1968 and 1983 the plant "lost" 234 pounds of highly enriched uranium, forcing the plant to be closed six times during that period.

Wow! That's really creepy! o_O= Mouse should get a Geiger Counter to carry around. -- LapisMouse o_O=

Switching to the topic of Wallace Stevens, a quick Googling turns up a nice bio at and several of the poems (incl. Anecdote of the Jar) at - RadRob

in the public domain:

   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.

(correlates: AuthorizedVersusForbidden, LastManStanding, EcoVillage, ...)