Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ponder with Rilke

Take your practiced powers and stretch the out until they span the chasm between two contradictions.  For the God wants to know himself in you. - Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke worked as a secretary in the Paris studio of sculptor Auguste Rodin. Rilke watched Rodin at work to develop muscularity in poetry in addition to a penchant for writing his own inner moods. 

Rilke's poem, "Archaic Torso of Apollo" sends out a call to action.

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Apollo, god of the sun, music, and poetry also represented order, rationality, and harmony. 

Rilke references the visual of the Apollo statue with "fabled eyes" and "curved breast" but does not mention Apollo's story. It does not matter if the reader has that knowledge. A sensuous apprehension develops.

A sculptor pays attention to the dimensions of form in the materials he uses. He cannot work from subjective feelings alone. They project through the design. 

Poetry reaches from Apollo's "gleam" inside him that ignites a fire in the reader. The sculpture focuses on the viewer. The line, For here there is no place that does not see you brings responsibility back to the observer. In the last line the gauntlet is thrown: You must change your life.

Rilke intrudes and challenges the reader to live life and not resort to the comfortable complacency of a statue.

Wherever the reader exists in life, Rilke's poem demands a pause, an evaluation, and an action. 

Where would you take the last line as a way to begin another story? 

Use the poem to challenge a writing day with pause, evaluation, and action. 

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