Sunday, January 8, 2017

Reading Rilke

Shadows in the Cloister
Conques
I love poetry. I think most of us begin life loving it...all children seem delighted with nursery rhymes and rhyming children's songs. And most of us give up poetry when a well-meaning grade school teacher forces us to memorize it or worse yet, interpret it. Who knows what the poet meant by that phrase? My guess is that even the poet didn't really know...it just sounded right! I've continued to love poetry in spite of that. Right now, I'm reading Rilke.

Ranier Maria Rilke, born in Prague in 1875, was already a published poet when he wrote the poems that comprise his 'Book of Hours' which I'm currently reading. Rilke became enthralled with the landscape and spirituality of Russia during a visit there in 1899. These poems came to him over the next two years as intense 'inner dictations' which have been described as 'inward conversations with God.' Rilke uncharacteristically kept these poems secret for years, perhaps reflecting how intensely personal they were to him.

The translation  that I'm reading is by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. I've included a sound file of Joanna Macy reading "Go to the Limits of Your Longing" for an 'On Being' broadcast. It's the poem that first brought me to the wonders of Rilke.

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