Monday, March 12, 2012

Letters to a Young Poet

 " A work of art is good if it has sprung from necessity"

"Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you to create; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to create. This above all - ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I create?

...then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it"  

Letters To a Young Poet is a series of response letters from poet Rainer Maria Rilke to a young aspiring poet on 'surviving as a sensitive observer in a harsh world'. The wonderful thing about this collection is that it touches on not only poetry, but art...not only art, but LIFE: love, gender issues, society and self esteem included. Which makes so much sense. If art imitates life or reflects life...then it is crucial to rediscover how to live and view the world. More importantly, if we are to be artists...then our life should reflect our everyday work. If to make art is the thesis of my life, then everything I do should be an extension of my craft. As a wise professor once said: we GET to do this! and No one can chop that wood, but you!

This has been something since reading this book, that has gotten me into trouble. I wish I had Rilke here to help me out like the person receiving the letters (who was going through the same problems) did, but since I don't...I am asking you, yes you, for help. I have become increasingly more obsessed with art and creating in anyway I can; in ways I am pretty ok at and things I am awful at. I just HAVE to do it. There are nights I can't sleep because I have pent up creative energy that hasn't been released and then I can't stop. While all this seems ok, I am afraid I am going to lose friends because of it. I get too 'intense' or 'exhausting' or a hermit. They say it is ok for a short while, but I become tiring. And I completely understand. But it still frustrates me...and gets terribly lonely. Even when I am with people...I am lonely. Help?

I have looked to Rilke to help me out. "...perhaps we would endure our sadnesses with greater confidence than our joys. For they are the moments when something new has entered into us, something unknown; our feelings grow mute in shy perplexity, everything in us withdraws, a stillness comes, and the new, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it and is silent...

...many signs indicate that the future enters into us in this way in order to transform itself in us long before it happens. And this is why it is so important to be lonely and attentive when one is sad: because the apparently uneventful stark moment at which our future sets foot in us is so much closer to life than that other noisy and fortuitous point of time at which it happens to us as if from the outside. "

" We must assume our existence as broadly as we can in any way we can; everything, even the unheard-of, must be possible in it. That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter"

There is tremendous love that pours out of Rilke's words and beauty in the way he strings them together into sentences. He doesn't waste a single word. I wish i could give a list of quotes like I normally do, but I would just be retyping the whole book.
The beauty of his work is that you get something new out of every time you pick it up. His work is so dense that it is impossible to get everything out of it the first, second or even third time you read it.
It feels like he is speaking right to you like he knows what you are going through or what you are about to go through. he is encouraging us to go on and do what we were made to do. Artist to Artist, he GETs it...even though there is almost 100 years difference between us. He touches on this in his closing letter " Do not believe that he who seeks to comfort you lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life has much difficulty and sadness...Were it otherwise he would never have been able to find those words."And this is true. There is a short biography that chronicles what Rilke was going through when writing these letters. He had his share of being misunderstood and rejection...that I know we all have felt at some point in our lives.

For all those who are frustrated in their art, lost, content, yearning, seeking, losing, winning, sad, or happy...I HIGHLY recommend buying this book. It is comforting, encouraging, inspiring and less than 100 pages! 

Here is what my copy looks much AWESOME on every page.
"There is here no measuring with time, no year matters, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer. It does come. But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide. I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which i am grateful: patience is everything"