In the Company of Rilke:
Why A 20th Century Visionary Poet So Eloquently to 21st Century Readers
By Stephanie Dowrick
Thomas Merton says, “Rilke is a poet. Is that a small thing?” It is a Rhetorical Question. It is no small thing to be a poet.
Psalm 42 My Soul Thirsts For God. Rilke had a direct experience of God. There was no middle man. St John of the Cross, Rumi and Kabir were similar.
“Endure just as the tongue does and it still able to praise.”
There is question about the usefulness of poets in the Modern Age. Written by Rilke to Albert Hofstadter: “Without the poetic element in our own being and without our poets and their great poetry, we would brutes, or what is worse and what we are today—vicious automatons of self will.”
Art is a cosmic, creative transforming force.
Going inward, “We empty ourselves, we surrender and we unfold.”
Harold Bloom says, “To fall in love without poetry we are young is to be awakened to the self’s potential.”
Chapter 1: God Is Still Speaking
Rilke to Witold Hulewicz in Letter: “We are these transformers of the Earth; our entire existence, the flight and plunges of our love, everything, qualifies us for this task. (Besides, which these exists essentially in no other).” (6)
Language is a mixed blessing in the Hiddeness of Life.
“Breathe The Darkness of the Earth. The One You Are Looking For Is You.”
Intensity and intimacy are characteristic of poetry—specifically Rilke’s poetry. “Art is childhood after all.”
You need courage to go out there. The heart is dangerous territory to enter and difficult to leave.
You should be shaken by Rilke and his words. Poetry is necessary to breath. “Life holds mystery for us yet.” Writing and Reading awaken day dreams in each other.
“I do not want to tear art from life. I know that somehow and somewhere, both belong together,” Rilke wrote.
Our job? To nourish the sacred rather than the certain
Translations of Rilke—Robert Bly, Joanna Macy, Stephen Mitchell, Edward Snow, Mark S Burrows, William Gass, Ulrich Baer, J B Leishman, Witold Von Hulewicz, CF Macintyre.
Everyone has their own Rilke. Ortega Y Gasset, “The Sadness of Translation.”
For Example Rilke’s The Swan. Translated by Arndt and then Robert Bly
Leiben und Tod: Life and Death are One. In the Swan we witness death and its closeness.
Notion of “Airs on the other side” Union of Simplicity and Transcendence
Inwardness is an experience not a state of mind.
The intensity of poetry and of seeking the not familiar theistic god but something further out (and further in) unite to tremendous effect on much of Rilke’s writing.
Greek Meaning of Poetry—literally the Making of the World
Theology is literally speaking of the divine. Religion is Poetry. Prayers are poems.
Rilke feels he is equal to God. Does that make him a narcissist? No.
Rilke called Religion “A direction of the heart.”
Poetry makes “Secret Visions Visible.” Can see inner worlds space
“You have to have something vicious in you to be a creative writer,” Rilke wrote Philip Larkin
“What are Poets for?” Uttering the Holy
All Biographies of Rilke are Unsatisfying. Rilke took 15 years to come up with a synonym for Tortured. A Scientific and Psychological profile can’t capture his inner mysticism.
Alice Miller was an advocate for sensitive talented children against abuse.
Rilke had a string of affairs or lovers. He dumped them and disowned them. He causes others suffering because of his miserable childhood. His mother wanted a girl and was distant. Nannies came and went. His father wanted a solider but got a sickly boy. He failed at Military School. Rilke preferred the solitude of his inner world.
Reading equals Power.
German Sehnsucht—seeking to see. Rilke’s work reflects his yearning.
Rilke views romantic love and tragedy as good because, “It consists of seeking the satisfaction in the infinite desire in a finite, defective being.” (Belle Griffith)
Terror of Beauty: Rilke faces the terrible beauty. (178)
Anne Marie Kidder “The rose of the artist then, is to free people from their fears, to prepare the way for the birth some force.” (200)
God is NOT for comprehending (203)
His work, “Actually often concerns the most delicate that which lies on the borderline of what can barely be expressed”
“Sometimes I myself wrestle with the meaning that used me as an instrument in order to burst through the human form and the light of some parts I myself own only in unique blessed moments.”
We need beauty as much as me need meaning. Beauty causes pause. We live the tension between transformation and abstraction. We live the space of true feeling.
“Mysticism I read as little as Philosophy,” Rilke said. “It’s not how things are in the world, that is mystical, but that it exists.”
“Words belong to the public as well as in the private realm. A poem is an intersection between worlds—a summation in public terms that are in origin, private. We can never know the feelings themselves—only the public expression.”
Reading Rilke is, “Breaking upon the soul.” Poetry is not afraid of love.
Annie Dillard said, “I wake in God.”
The soul’s search for God is in poetry. Rilke was not conventionally Christian. He was against rigid dogma.
Concept of “The Open” was as a direction or way of becoming. It dealt with defenselessness or schutzlossein. It is tempting to compare the Buddhist idea of emptiness to the poem. It is more about dreaming and possibility though.
Rilke’s irrational truths.