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Some silence and solitude and a not too unfamiliar hour.

The September issue of Poetry Magazine gets me started.  In an excerpt from Rachel Corbett's book, You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin, I come across this:

Rilke viewed his prolific letter-writing habit as a part of his poetic practice.  He took such care in composing his correspondence — he would sooner rewrite an entire page of script than mar its surface with a crossed-out word...

...and I am reminded of someone I know.  Someone who spends far too much time crafting her emails.  But no.  I don't really believe that.  (Perhaps I can be convinced to believe, however, that she spends a little too much time complaining about those who don't?  Perhaps...  But more likely, not even that.)

Anyway.  It's enough to go looking for this new thing to love about Rilke.  Because I'm still there, at a place in my life where I have lots left to discover, lots left to love about Rilke.  (It's a good place to be.)

Here’s what I found.

I found that Rilke was one of the greatest—and most self-conscious—letter writers who ever lived.

That he composed [his] missives with a devotional purposiveness, indeed, almost as carefully as he composed his poems, taking each word in every letter seriously, as can be gleaned from the immaculate way he covered pages and pages of stationery with his prose.

That he had even changed his handwriting.

(That it was Lou Andreas-Salomé who suggested he change his handwriting.)

(That it was also Andreas-Salomé who suggested he change his name, from the feminine-sounding René to the more masculinely Germanic Rainer.)

And that this is why, even if it weren’t for their content, they are physically beautiful artifacts.

That then, there is the content.

That Rilke's letters are not letters in the usually accepted sense.

That there is none of the chat, the gossip, the backbiting that add spice to the correspondence between even the loftiest of souls.

Instead, they are so lively with tales of self-dislike and depression, [they] seem to out-Kafka Kafka himself.

That ultimately, they were a part of his art, of his signature searching, working, living-without-dying alwaysness — half communion, half self-examination; a ritualistic prelude to work; a calm precursor of his art; writing as a form of prayer.

(“Since for now several years I have had the custom to channel part of the productivity of my nature into writing letters...”)

That in some ways, maybe they were more.

[In his letters] Rilke sometimes abandoned the constraints of German verse, and occasionally syntax, to produce powerful and surprisingly accessible meditations on life, art, death, religion, love and politics.

Are more.

[In his letters] Rilke reveals his remarkable capacity for turning the meticulous description of an object, event, site, person, or experience into an analysis of how our consciousness shapes reality and how the encounter with the world can, in turn, prompt us to transform ourselves.

That he wrote approximately 17,000 letters.

That he wrote to housekeepers and politicians, fellow poets and lovers, teenage girls infatuated with his verse and, though rarely, to critics who had engaged with his work.

That the only criterion for inclusion in Rilke's little black book, where he meticulously kept track of all his correspondence (at the end of his life, it contained several hundred entries with notes on every letter written and received), was that a letter, even from an unknown individual or someone of far lower social standing, “spoke to him”.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[sabato 29 ottobre 2016 ore 11:10:20] []

Introverts Recite.

Today's Poetry Foundation Poem of the Day is “Dividend of the Social Opt Out” by Jennifer Moxley, and it feels like something to paper my walls with.  Something to live inside.

*

It also reminds me of “The Art of Disappearing” by Naomi Shihab Nye.  And so, because now I have an itch to re-read Nye's poem, to feel the way I remember feeling on reading it, immediately and now, like a craving for a quartered orange, I go Googling.  And in a classic case of that thing, you know, that rule that says that if you encounter some new thing you'd never heard of — a word or a concept or, as in this case, a public radio show — chances are you will encounter it again within twenty-four hours...?  In a classic case of that, I wind up at On Being, which I'd only just heard about for the first time last night, via Maria Popova over at Brain Pickings (because I was reading about Rilke as one must always read about Rilke — in ever-widening circles).  And among the seventeen dozen wildflower things I find in listening to Naomi Shihab Nye (like a way of moving through the world, like an appetite for knowing, like a planet so wide open for doing), there is this:

I just came back from Japan a month ago, and in every classroom, I would just write on the board, “You are living in a poem.”  And then I would write other things just relating to whatever we were doing in that class.  But I found the students very intrigued by discussing that.  “What do you mean, we’re living in a poem?” Or, “When?  All the time, or just when someone talks about poetry?”  And I’d say, “No, when you think, when you’re in a very quiet place, when you’re remembering, when you’re savoring an image, when you’re allowing your mind calmly to leap from one thought to another, that’s a poem.  That’s what a poem does.”  And they liked that.

And a girl, in fact, wrote me a note in Yokohama on the day that I was leaving her school that has come to be the most significant note any student has written me in years.  She said, “Well, here in Japan, we have a concept called ‘yutori.’” And it is spaciousness. It’s a kind of living with spaciousness.  For example, it’s leaving early enough to get somewhere so that you know you’re going to arrive early, so when you get there, you have time to look around.  Or — and then she gave all these different definitions of what yutori was to her.

But one of them was — and after you read a poem just knowing you can hold it, you can be in that space of the poem.  And it can hold you in its space.  And you don’t have to explain it.  You don’t have to paraphrase it.  You just hold it, and it allows you to see differently.


*

Earlier this week, Laura posted a link to a piece in The New Yorker, and it felt like an old friend of mine had just met an even older friend of mine — without my having had anything to do with it.  Today I read the piece that Donald Hall wrote for the New Yorker, this month.  Then I re-read a piece he wrote for Poetry Magazine, years ago.

I think about twin solitudes, third things, and a house big enough for two people to come together in it.

*

I find “The Art of Disappearing“ too, of course.

And the name of that thing.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[giovedì 27 ottobre 2016 ore 19:29:29] []

Three women in the Oltrarno, mostly.

Vodka and wine.  A roomful of wooden hands, upturned.
Michelangelo's thank-you crucifix, and a heated debate about the word divino.
Rabbit, ribollita, and twice-done peposo.
Cream-colored cashmere and blue-marbled paper.
Truffled cheese and talk of Artemisia.  This.
And this.

And later, this too.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[venerdì 21 ottobre 2016 ore 10:29:29] []