Saturday, April 24, 2010

What I mean when I say Rilke speaks to me

I found in my inbox today, courtesy of Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, this poem, by Rainer Maria Rilke:

You don't know nights of love? No
petals of soft words float on your blood?
No secret places on your body
throb with memories, like eyes?

And it just makes me gasp and blush and sets my head aswirl. Is it just me?

I don't, as a rule, get poetry. So why this poem? Why does Rilke speak to me, while others hear Keats and Shelley? What is it about Rilke, and about me, that we have something to say to each other? Something other people aren't privy to — it's not for their ears. This is between Rilke and me.

10 comments:

Sarah (tuulenhaiven) said...

I had a similar experience when I encountered Rilke. I was astonished by his words, and finally felt that I had been hit in the gut with what others found so powerful in poetry. Intriguing.

claire said...

That is beautiful. I love Rilke too! But haven't read as much as I'd like to. One of my most favourite poems of all-time is in his Book of Hours.

stefanie said...

How beautiful! I think there is a poet for everyone who suddenly unlocks everything and speaks to them like no other ever has. Finding that poet sometimes takes a lot of work. Maybe Rilke is your poet. Seems like it. Enjoy!

Isabella said...

I'm glad to know I'm not alone in my awe of Rilke, Sarah.

Claire, I haven't read all of Rilke yet. It's like I have to spread him out, discover him little by little, year by year. It's a section of the Duino Elegies that first did me in, ages ago.

Stephanie, that's a really beautiful idea, that there's a poet for everyone. Have you found yours?

Bybee said...

I had this homely little middle aged World Lit II professor (think Walter Mitty-type) who would read long sections of Rilke (Duino Elegies) to us, blushing furiously all the while. I was sort of in love with the guy for years because of that.

Bybee said...

P.S. Keats and Shelley have nothing on Rilke. He could kick their pretentious Romantic butts around the block any old day!

Isabella said...

I love that story, Bybee. I think I'd be kind of in love with someone who read long sections of Rilke to me too.

Stefanie said...

Yes, I have found my poet, Adrienne Rich. I had always liked poetry before I read her but she was the key that opened a door in my brain and things have never been the same since.

Pearl said...

thanks for pointing to Rilke. I'm inspired to read more.

John Shin said...

I prefer the translation in "The Unknown Rilke." I'll have to look it up again when I get home.