From an interesting email response to my previous post concerning Simone Weil and Wallace Stevens:
I hope this won’t seem tediously contrarian, but I must say that in some respects I find Stevens more of an ascetic than Weil. True, it’s a peculiar kind of opulent asceticism, but in his poetry the real world is consistently devalued for the realm of pure imagination. When reality does make an appearance it’s usually as a rude intruder, the source of horrible sorrow, as in the great short poem “Gallant Chateau.” Elsewhere, as in “Arrival at the Waldorf,” he actually seems to mock this world with all its supposed wonders and adventures, suggesting that they’re all basically interchangeable and equally banal. At best the world may be a source of imagery for his solitary meditations.
I read Stevens most deeply during a time of acute loneliness; he was a great solace. His poetry teaches you how to be alone.
It was around the same time that I was reading Weil, and her effect was almost the opposite. [. . .] They represent two distinct spiritual practices. Even when she is most abstract, and seemingly pure, I can never forget the world with which she was passionately engaged til the horrible end.
It delights me to no end to get such responses. I responded in kind, via email, but thought I might extend the reflections here as well.
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