In 1942, Wallace Stevens published what is perhaps his greatest gift to the world of art, poetry, and metaphysics, Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction. Consisting of three sections, each made up of 10-poems, and a prologue and epilogue, Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction functions as an analysis of art, reality, and the modern human. This collection of poems, as Raina Kostova points out, “is not about a supreme fiction but constitutes a move toward one [...] in which poetic language, as a medium, will attempt to capture- or rather lure- a supreme fiction to take place.” Notes is a meditation on the role that human expression plays in creating and establishing it. Stevens solidifies this point when he states, “the power of literature is that in describing the world, it creates what it describes.” Stevens felt it was his duty to establish the role of the modern poet and artist, and considering the date of this book’s release (1942), this motivation was most likely influenced by World War II. Greed and hatred had produced vast waves of death and despair, and in the face of that horror, Stevens defended what he had always loved- his imagination and the unreal.
In light of humanity’s heightened awareness of the Anthropocene, the war we have waged against the Earth, a move toward a new supreme fiction is needed. Humanity must look toward art and poetry to create future happenings, inspire and change perspectives, write new fictions, and as Deleuze and Guattari claim, “call for a future form, for a new Earth and people that do not yet exist.”
To begin moving toward a new supreme fiction, I have decided to revisit one of my favorite poems from Notes, “Oak Leaves are Hands.” I wanted to return to this work, to reframe it, as a supreme fiction written for the Anthropocene; an absurd homage to Stevens’ sincere curiosity and to the oak tree that inspired it. Had the oak tree that inspired “Oak Leaves” ever hear the poem it inspired? The recording I have produced was made using my voice and an accelerometer- a special microphone capable of listening to sounds within three dimensional objects. I affixed the device to an oak tree that lives outside my bedroom window and recorded the ambient sound present in its resonant body. I then proceeded to read “Oak Leaves are Hands” aloud to the tree.