Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Aimless Reading: The R's, Part 12 (Rainer Maria Rilke)

The Selected Poetry of Ranier Maria Rilke
Rilke, Rainer Maria
The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke

I bought this towards the end of my senior year in college, but I am not sure where. Possibly at St. Mark's Bookshop, possibly elsewhere. I would say Rilke was the most read poet of my early twenties. I probably read something by him every day for a year. Sadly, I never learned enough German to read the original, but I've always liked Stephen Mitchell's translations.

I have a memory of one of my literary compadres of that time sneering at Rilke, mostly out of pure ignorance. He'd gotten very excited by a French Symbolism course he taken with a priest at Fordham and basically rejected any poet that had not been taught in that class. I didn't try to defend Rilke too adamantly, as he didn't seem to want to expand his world beyond the Symbolistes.

from The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke

The Spanish Dancer

As on all its sides a kitchen-match darts white

flickering tongues before it bursts into flame:
with the audience around her, quickened, hot,
her dance begins to flicker in the dark room.

And all at once it is completely fire.

One upward glance and she ignites her hair
and, whirling faster and faster, fans her dress
into passionate flames, till it becomes a furnace
from which, like startled rattlesnakes, the long
naked arms uncoil, aroused and clicking.

And then: as if the fire were too tight
around her body, she takes and flings it out
haughtily, with an imperious gesture,
and watches: it lies raging on the floor,
still blazing up, and the flames refuse to die–.
Till, moving with total confidence and a sweet
exultant smile, she looks up finally
and stamps it out with powerful small feet.


plugnickel said...

i kind of feel like i need a cigarette after that poem

i'm a little surprised that a priest might be involved in poo pooing rilke - he's often considered a catholic poet - as a matter of fact, several Catholic priests influenced my interest

is still use his "isness" of being when i think about being in the world

c'mon "letters to a young poet"- a classic

and this movie based on rilke's poetry (duino elegies, etc.)

vincent price's daughter wrote a book on rilke

your daughter is beautiful but she doesn't seem much interested in the book

rdeming said...

The nice thing about Rilke is that he doesn't need defending. He's Rilke--that's sufficient defense unto itself.