Thursday, December 09, 2010

Letters from a Poet's Soul 6

Signposts in Santry Park

That Rainer Maria Rilke straddled the period between Romanticism and Modernism there can be no doubt.  That he was a most deep and intense man, like most poets, can never either be in doubt.  That he prized such intensity or depth or passion of feeling as being important to the poet's craft there can never be a doubt in any way at all.  In Letter 9 to the young poet Mr Kappus,  he writes in this regard the following lines:

And about feelings: All feelings that concentrate you and lift you up are pure; only that feeling is impure which grasps just one side of your being and thus distorts you. Everything you can think of as you face your childhood, is good. Everything that makes more of you than you have ever been, even in your best hours, is right. Every intensification is good, if it is in your entire blood, if it isn't intoxication or muddiness, but joy which you can see into, clear to the bottom. Do you understand what I mean?  (See this link: RMR Letters )
Art is about Living

Art is never anything airy-fairy for Rilke.  It must be part of life, and in that sense be very real indeed.  In this last letter to the young poet, Mr Kappus, he declares:

Art too is just a way of living, and however one lives, one can, without knowing, prepare for it; in everything real one is closer to it, more its neighbour, than in the unreal half-artistic professions, which, while they pretend to be close to art, in practice deny and attack the existence of all art - as, for example, all of journalism does and almost all criticism and three quarters of what is called (and wants to be called) literature. I am glad, in a word, that you have overcome the danger of landing in one of those professions, and are solitary and courageous, somewhere in a rugged reality. May the coming year support and strengthen you in that. (See the above link!)

Quite clearly Rilke believed that the career of a military man or soldier was far more real and authentic than being a journalist, critic or some so-called expert in art.  Those professions were far too safe, far too pedestrian, far too lacking in courage.  Instead, being a military man was quite literally a way of being real or authentic or true to self.  Instead Mr Kappus was "solitary and courageous, somewhere in rugged reality."  This last letter was written in 1908 when Rilke was a young man of 33.  He died december 1926 aged 51.

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