two sonnets and the artist’s way

31 May, 2010

I’m still reading – incredibly slowly – Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus. Slowly because I’m really not getting on with them all that well – much of it is just too abstract and opaque for me. But persevering because my tutor last term said I’d like them, and I hate not finishing books, so I sort of feel duty-bound to keep slogging away at it.

But every once in a while a poem will stand out for me, and today I was struck by these two, from the second part of the collection:


O this is the creature that does not exist.
They did not know that and in any case
– its motion, and its bearing, and its neck,
even to the light of its still gaze – they loved it.

Indeed it never was. Yet because they loved it,
a pure creature happened. They always allowed room.
And in that room, clear and left open,
it easily raised its head and scarcely needed

to be. They fed it with no grain, but ever
with the possibility that it might be.
And this gave the creature such strength

it grew a horn out of its brow. One horn.
To a virgin it came hither white –
and was in the silver-mirror and in her.

I love that one phrase: they always allowed room. Somehow it really resonated with me today.

I loved the next one even more. It reminds me of Alice Oswald’s ‘Sonnet’, which begins ‘towards winter flowers, forms of ecstatic water, / chalk lies dry with all its throats open.’


Flower-muscle, that opens the anemone’s
meadow-morning bit by bit,
until into her lap the polyphonic
light of the loud skies pours down,

muscle of infinite reception
tensed in the still star of the blossom,
sometimes so overmanned with abundance
that the sunset’s beckoning to rest

is scarcely able to give back to you
the wide-sprung petal-edges:
you, resolve and strength of how many worlds!

We, with our violence, are longer-lasting.
But when, in which one of all lives,
are we at last open and receivers?

That sense of openness chimed with what I read today in The Artist’s Way, which I’ve started working through again after about four months off (though I do still write my morning pages pretty much every day). I don’t know why I stopped reading it, but it’s good to have started again. This week is about recovering a sense of possibility – of being open to abundance, wherever it comes from.

This post brought to you by bank-holiday lie-ins, M.D. Herter Norton’s translations of Rilke and a head full of metrics.

2 Responses to “two sonnets and the artist’s way”

  1. stellito said

    i love rilke… thanks for that dose of him!

  2. kayvee said

    Really? Aside from these two (and a few others) I’m finding him almost unreadable… /philistine

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