Voldemort and me
“He Who Must Not Be Named” of Harry Potter fame and I had this in common: we were both trying to live without a body. This too: we discovered it was a miserable existence.
Wallace Stevens reminded me of this experience today. Perhaps I flatter myself in thinking I’ve heard of the poet Wallace Stevens before now—after all, he was only one of the major American poets of the recent century; I must have heard of him, right? Maybe not. My ignorance is profound. Vast black holes gawp in my education.
Nonetheless, I ran across a reference to Wallace Stevens today and followed up on it. And arrived at Steven’s long poem, “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction.” And I read it. What follows are a few unstudied reactions. No scholar of poetics, I am reacting to words and phrases, thoughts that stimulate more.
From this the poem springs: that we live in a place
That is not our own and, much more, not ourselves
And hard it is in spite of blazoned days.
—Wallace Stevens, from “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction”
The poet might be talking about my experience of living in a body I refused to claim as my own. My evangelical upbringing taught me to regard the things of this present world as passing fancies, insubstantial, hardly worth noticing. What was real, what was important was the unseen, the yet-to-come world. So you’re in a body. So what. Pay it no heed. Don’t listen to its yammering desires. You’re not of your body, you’re not really even of yourself, for that matter. Give it all over to God and let go your claim on it.
These messages may have their place in the grand scheme of things, but to exclude the body forthwith, to write out of the picture our enfleshed selves—well, this way does not health lie.
No wonder it’s hard to enjoy one’s body, sip the savor of youth, enjoy the blazoned days . . . There’s nobody home or at home in the body enough to be present to what going on around.