n i g h t i n g a l e s h i r a z / blog
Quo Vadis?

june 2023
january 2023
december 2022
september 2022
august 2022
july 2022
january 2022
november 2021
october 2021
september 2021
august 2021
july 2021
june 2021
may 2021
april 2021
march 2021
february 2021
january 2021
september 2020
august 2020
july 2020
may 2020
april 2020
march 2020
february 2020
december 2019
october 2019
july 2019
june 2019
may 2019
april 2019
march 2019
february 2019
january 2019
december 2018
november 2018
october 2018
september 2018
august 2018
july 2018
june 2018
may 2018
april 2018
march 2018
february 2018
january 2018
december 2017
november 2017
october 2017
september 2017
august 2017
july 2017
june 2017
march 2017
february 2017
january 2017
november 2016
october 2016
september 2016
august 2016
july 2016
june 2016
may 2016
april 2016
march 2016
february 2016
december 2015
november 2015
october 2015
september 2015
may 2015
march 2015
february 2015
january 2015
december 2014
november 2014
october 2014
september 2014
august 2014
may 2014
april 2014
march 2014
february 2014
*april 2013
*march 2013
*february 2013
*january 2013
*december 2012
*november 2012
*october 2012
*september 2012
*july 2012
*october 2011
*september 2011
*august 2011
*july 2011
*june 2011
*may 2011
april 2011
march 2011
april 2010
march 2010
february 2010
january 2010
december 2009
november 2009
september 2009
june 2009
may 2009
february 2009
january 2009
december 2008
october 2008
september 2008
august 2008
july 2008
june 2008
may 2008
april 2008
january 2008
december 2007
november 2007
october 2007
september 2007
august 2007
july 2007
june 2007
may 2007
april 2007
march 2007
february 2007
january 2007
december 2006
november 2006
october 2006
september 2006
august 2006
july 2006
june 2006
may 2006
april 2006
march 2006
february 2006
january 2006
december 2005
november 2005
october 2005
september 2005
august 2005
july 2005
june 2005
may 2005
april 2005
march 2005
february 2005
january 2005
december 2004
november 2004
october 2004
september 2004
august 2004
july 2004
june 2004
may 2004
april 2004
march 2004
february 2004
january 2004
december 2003
june 2003
april 2003
march 2003
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] []