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  • I fancied myself a poet trapped inside the molecular biology department. With a schedule crammed with all the required science courses, it wasn't until my senior year that I was able to take my first poetry class. It was a 400 level course full of English majors who knew how to "properly" criticize poetry. I talked my way into the course because my obsession since high school with a marvelous anthology had actually given me a decent working knowledge of 20th century poetry.

    The class was on Wallace Stevens. And in that class we read a poem called "Anecdote of a Jar". On a recent trip to Tennessee I saw the poem come to life, at a life scale replica of the Parthenon. I remember reading this poem aloud in class, and it teaching me how little actions can trigger environmental change, the nature of dominion and human enterprise.

    Despite all the molecular pathways of the human body that I memorized in biology courses, it is only these poetic sojourns of the mind that stick with me.


    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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