Machu Picchu and Wallace Stevens


On November 28, 2011 I wrote a blog about Machu Picchu. You can see it here. I mentioned in that blog that the ruin reminded me of a poem by Wallace Stevens called Anecdote of the Jar. It is a strange poem and I have written about it elsewhere and, alas, a long time ago (“Form and Meaning in Four Poems, College English, Vol. 37, No. 6, Feb. 1976).

In the earlier blog I provided the text of the poem. Since then, I found a video I made of the ruin when I was there in October of 2011.  I thought I’d post the video for you complete with music and me reading the poem.  It is a short thing and won’t overly try your patience.

Truth in advertising: the music is from the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra’s CD, Aardvark Speaks Out. I play in that orchestra and am delighted to be able to advertise the CD to you. The music appears with permission of the Aardmuse Publishing Co.  The name of the piece is Gil and the flute player is Peter Bloom, one of the finest reed players in the business who, in a previous life, must have been an Inca.

Roy Harvey Pearce, a distinguished literary critic, once offered the opinion that the inspiration for Stevens' Anecdote of the Jar was an actual jar:

‘ … 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.


I prefer Machu Picchu.

video