January 1, 2012

With our thanks

Rainer Maria Rilke

It seems appropriate that we, Ruth and Lorenzo, feel both sadness and joy as we close out this year of Rilke readings, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. Perhaps it was not possible to read 365 days of Rilke’s poems, letters and journal entries without wholeness blooming in us out of what may have once felt separate: sorrow and joy; the visible and the invisible; transience and permanence; dread and bliss; materiality and spirituality; life and death. Has he taught us to stop resisting darkness, dread, and death? From this daily practice, we feel transformed, actually believing in the necessity, and even the beauty, of paradox—of both loss and gain—hidden within the mysteries of existence. So we embrace our sadness at the end of this year, in union with the joy of having experienced it with you, our readers.

Most importantly, we feel thankful for having Rainer Maria Rilke's incantatory writing to share here, his incomparable and often breathtaking poems, letters and journal entries that have filled the wonderful book A Year with Rilke. Over the year, many readers and participants have thanked us here and elsewhere for this blog, but we cannot help but feel that such gratitude and all accolades, though ever so warmly received, are misplaced and truly must go the poet himself and to his translators and the editors of that volume: Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy.

Anita Barrows
So let us praise here the work of Anita and Joanna. As we have noted on the sidebar of this blog, translation of poetry is a tremendous challenge, yet day after day, through their efforts, we received the wonder of what lies hidden inside words and can only truly be transposed in the heart.

Joanna Macy
We would like to direct you to their Web sites, where you can discover other facets of their work. Here is Barrows' page at the Wright Institute, about her extraordinary clinical work with children, adolescents and adults with autism, based in Jungian practice. Here is a link to some of her poetry, quite beautiful.

Here is a link to Joanna Macy's wikipedia page, including a list of her published books. And here is Macy's personal Web page, about her fascinating work called Experiential Deep Psychology, reconnecting with the earth to restore wholeness.

Importantly, and with great affection, we wish also to thank you, our dear readers and commenters, for the beautiful contributions you have made this year. Without you, this enterprise would have been far less rich and full. So often you have shone your light on passages, illuminating even greater depth and power in what Rilke wrote.

* * *
Yesterday's post brought us Rilke's Flower of Farewell, a piece that strikes us as a magnificent crowning touch to our yearlong immersion in Rilke. Three short lines that capture so much, the essence perhaps, of the life-philosophy abuzz in all his writing ...

Somewhere the flower of farewell is blooming.
Endlessly it yields its pollen, which we breathe.
Even in the breeze of this beginning hour we breathe farewell.

Here as always in his writing, Rilke unites awareness of beginnings and blooming with a penetrating perception of departing and farewell, in an intense dual mindfulness in which death is not the end of life, but precisely what makes it whole, what gives us its full measure. And the flower of farewell, endlessly releasing its pollen, summons to our innermost ears the buzz of bees, of Rilkean bees, those “bees of the invisible" he called on all of us to become when he commanded us to transform the world about us:

Transform? Yes, for it is our task to impress this provisional, transient earth upon ourselves so deeply, so agonizingly, and so passionately that its essence rises up again “invisibly” within us. We are the bees of the invisible. We ceaselessly gather the honey of the visible to store it in the great golden hive of the Invisible.

So what next, fellow Rilke readers and friends? How to heed that transformative call? Perhaps all of us, each in our own way, are seeking to answer that call on our personal blogs. And as for the two hosts of this blog that bids farewell today (and never), we would like to peel back the curtain here and give you a glimpse of where the currents of this new year's airs are taking the pollen from last year's flower of farewell ...

Fresh blooms, a new blog venture for us

Inspired by how much we have enjoyed our year here with all of you, we would like to invite you to join us at a new blog that the two of us will host. Every few days at sparks and mirrors we will share fragments and figments of writings that inspire us and, hopefully, our readers too. It is our desire that those who read will actively participate, with their own input, much as so many of you have done over the past year on the Rilke blog. There will be reprises of Rilke, as well as echoes of Rumi and other writers we admire. So we warmly invite you all to follow the pollen path from yesterday's post over to sparks and mirrors...

Postscript: You can enter a date in the search box on the sidebar and find the reading for that day.

December 31, 2011

The Flower of Farewell

bee with pollen
photo by Ruth

Somewhere the flower of farewell is blooming.
Endlessly it yields its pollen, which we breathe.
Even in the breeze of this beginning hour we breathe farewell.

Uncollected Poems

December 30, 2011

Last Thing

The Artist at the Window

Come, you last thing. I recognize you,
unholy agony in the body's weave.
Just as I burned in my mind, now I burn in you.
The wood has long resisted, holding back
from the flames you ignite—
now I feed you and blaze in you.
In the grip of your rage my natural mildness
becomes a raging hell, unlike anything.
Quite pure, free of all thoughts,
I climb the twisted pyre of future suffering,
knowing now that there is nothing I can purchase
for the comfort of this heart. All its learnings now are silent.
Is it still I who burn beyond recognition?
I will not drag memories inside.
Oh Life, Life: to be outside.
I am in flames. No one who knows me.

Last entry in Rilke's last notebook,
included among his uncollected poems

December 29, 2011

The Poet's Epitaph

Rose photo, by Ruth

Rose, oh pure paradox, desire
to be no one's sleep beneath
the many eyelids of your petals.

Uncollected Poems
(Lines composed on October 27, 1925,
with instructions to be carved on his gravestone)

December 28, 2011

Wheel of God

Water Wheels of Mill at Gennep

You are a wheel at which I stand,
whose dark spokes sometimes catch me up,
revolve me nearer to the center.
Then all the work I put my hand to
widens from turn to turn.

From The Book of Hours I, 45

December 27, 2011

Probe the Depths from Which Your Life Springs

Man Writing Facing Left

My only advice for you is this. Go within yourself and probe the depths from which your life springs, and there at its source you'll find the answer to the question of whether you must write. Accept this answer, just as you hear it, without hesitation. It may be revealed that you are called to be an artist. Then take this lot upon you, and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without asking for any external reward. For the creative artist must be a world for himself, and find everything within himself—and in nature, to which he is devoted.

Paris, February 17, 1903
Letters to a Young Poet

December 26, 2011

The Double Realm

Reflections in the Water

Only he who lifts his lyre
in the Underworld as well
may come back
to praising, endlessly.

Only he who has eaten
the food of the dead
will make music so clear
that even the softest tone is heard.

Though the reflection in the pool
often ripples away,
take the image within you.

Only in the double realm
do our voices carry
all they can say.

Sonnets to Orpheus I, 9