Saturday, January 1

A year with Rilke and all of you ...

Happy new year to all my readers and blog friends. And a very happy birthday to my oldest daughter Isabel, who turns 20 today. Isabel is featured in the photos I am posting here, taken from concerts she gave with her chamber music group at different churches in Madrid during Easter Week and this past Christmas.

Today, standing inside the festive gate of this new year, I take pleasure in announcing a gift for all my blog friends: a new blog with daily readings from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. This project has been launched by Ruth of synch-ro-ni-zing and myself out of the appreciation we both feel for the beauty and many insights we find in Rilke’s writing. It is based on the recently published collection A Year With Rilke (translated and edited by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows, Harper Collins), which features a short daily offering of excerpts from his poems and letters. For Rilke, letter writing was the workshop for his poetry and something he took extremely seriously, as becomes quite clear when contemplating the staggering volume and remarkable depth of this facet of his literary output. He spent an astonishing amount of time in that epistolary workshop, penning some 11,000 letters during his relatively short life (1875–1926). The blog will also include images of photos and paintings that bear some relation to the German poet, his life and writings, friends and social and cultural milieu. It contains a link to a biographical piece on him from The Poetry Foundation.

Neither Ruth nor I make any pretense of being experts in Rilke. Speaking for myself, though I had been familiar with bits of his poetry and fragments from his widely and deservedly celebrated Letters to a Young Poet, it was only quite recently that I began to delve into his works “seriously” (pronounced ponderously with one arched eyebrow and graven voice). And how rewarding it has been! Rilke is one of those poets, like, say, Mary Oliver, whose magic goes beyond the sheer beauty of their verse. More than a poet, he seems to be a guide to how to be in this world, how to see, feel and engage intensely with our immediate surroundings, latching our senses onto the beauty that abounds everywhere and everyday, exploring the continuous and limitless opportunities for appreciative amazement. In this sense, his poetry is based on a supreme magnification and intensification of things, not on an exquisite delectation of philosophical ideas, as can be seen in the “thing poems” (dinggedichte) in which he set himself the task of taking down every word of the “dictation of existence".

But you are better off reading this from the poet himself, not from me, so I will include some quotes from Rainer Maria Rilke below. As was modestly stated by the young poet addressee of Letters to a Young Poet, Franz Xaver Kappus, in his introduction to that memorable book, “when a truly great and unique spirit speaks, the lesser ones must be silent” (all of the following quotes are taken from The Poet’s Guide to Life: The Wisdom of Rilke, another highly recommendable collection of his writings thematically arranged by translator and editor Ulrich Baer into a sort of user’s manual for life).
The possibility of intensifying things so that they reveal their essence depends so much on our participation. When things sense our avid interest, they pull themselves together without delay and are all that they can be, and in everything new the old is then whole, only different and vastly heightened.
Seeing is for us the most authentic possibility of acquiring something. If god had only made our hands to be like our eyes —so ready to grasp, so willing to relinquish all things— then we could truly acquire wealth. We do not acquire wealth by letting something remain and wilt in our hands but only by letting everything pass through their grasp as if through the festive gate of return and homecoming. Our hands ought not to be a coffin for us but a bed sheltering the twilight slumber and dreams of the things held there, out of whose depths their dearest secrets speak. Once out of our hands, however, things ought to move forward, now sturdy and strong, and we should keep nothing of them but the courageous morning melody that hovers and shimmers behind their fading steps.
Yes, for it is our task to impress this provisional, transient earth upon ourselves so deeply, so agonizingly, and so passionately that its essence rises up again “invisibly” within us. We are the bees of the invisible. We ceaselessly gather the honey of the visible to store it in the great golden hive of the Invisible.
Most people do not know at all how beautiful the world is and how much magnificence is revealed in the tiniest things, in some flower, in a stone, in tree bark, or in a birch leaf. Adults, being preoccupied with business and worries and tormenting themselves with all kinds of petty details, gradually lose the very sight for these riches that children, when they are attentive and good, soon notice and love with all their heart. And yet the greatest beauty would be achieved if everyone remained in this regard always like attentive and good children, naïve and pious in feeling, and if people did not lose the capacity for taking pleasure as intensely in a birch leaf or a peacock’s feather or the wing of a hooded crow as in a great mountain range or a magnificent palace. What is small is not small in itself, just as that which is great is not great. A great and eternal beauty passes through the whole world, and it is distributed justly over that which is small and that which is large; for in important and essential matters, there exists no injustice anywhere on earth. Art is childhood. 

Whether you are surrounded by the singing of a lamp or the sounds of a storm, by the breathing of the evening or the sighing of the sea, there is a vast melody woven of a thousand voices that never leaves you and only occasionally leaves room for your solo. To know when you have to join in, that is the secret of your solitude, just as it is the art of true human interaction: to let yourself take leave of the lofty words to join in with the one shared melody.

So, please go visit the blog (via the link on the sidebar or here) and join Ruth and myself in beginning this new year with a daily dose of Rainer Maria Rilke. The year that has just closed was my first full year as a blogger and thus very special for me. And I look forward to 2011 with great enthusiasm as we continue to share the secrets of our solitidues, our solos and our melodies here, at A Year With Rilke and on all of your blogs.


  1. So much to respond to here Lorenzo. My mind and senses are buzzing with delight! For now I must content myself with admiring your radiant daughter. She is a beautiful young woman and you must be so proud! My wishes for a very happy birthday for Isabel. (I was assigned the cello as my instrument in high school, and while I did not pursue the study of it, I am ever seduced by its sultry, resonant tones.)

    I'll be back to read and respond to your quotes from one of my favourite poets when our New Year's Day guests have come and gone.

  2. lorenzo you must be so very proud of your daughter! i am very excited to read and learn more about rilke. i have only the simplest knowledge of his work and even that has made me infinitiely richer. to have access to your thoughtfulness coupled with his writing - well it beggars me to think of it! i wish you a creatively rich and fruitful year! steven

  3. Happy New Year, Lorenzo! And Happy Birthday to your beautiful daughter.

    I am going to share your link to the new blog, as I have a number of friends who read and appreciate Rilke. I look forward to many great posts in the coming months.

  4. Congratulations, Lorenzo, on so many things, not the least of which is your lovely daughter, Isabel, and her accomplishments. Congratulations also for the beautiful launch of "A Year with Rilke," which I look forward to and will follow on a daily basis.

    Many you and your family be blessed in the coming year. The journey continues . . .

  5. Happy New Year to you and your dear ones Lorenzo!
    Thank you for your friendship!
    Aleksandra :)

  6. Happy New Year, Lorenzo! Birthday joy wished to your lovely daughter. Very excited about the new Rilke blog!

  7. Looking forward to this new blog and learning about Rilke as he seems to be the subject of many blog posts and writings of late.

    Your daughter is lovely. Happy New Year!

  8. Happy New Year! And a very Happy Birthday to your lovely daughter. Congratulations on the new blog!

  9. Great post and blog. Thanks and happy New Year!

  10. The first quote is like a poetic companion to the idea in quantum mechanics that the observer is part of the experiment. It must be wonderful to hear your daughter play with her group.

  11. Ah, Rilke, of all our poets he speaks to the hearts and minds of so many.

    I shall most certainly come, read and absorb your daily offerings. It will be my pleasure to read and compare your texts with the originals on my shelves.

    Rilke touches me like no other poet, I would love to understand what it is that touches poetry lovers who will never hear the music and resonance of the words he himself wrote.

    Happy Birthday to your beautiful daughter.

  12. Ah ha... a new endeavor, eh? I shall give it a look.

    And your daughter is a New Year's Baby? Do you try to rip her off (like my family does) by "combining" Christmas and Birthday presents?


  13. The cello is a beautiful instrument that I adore - my son plays bass and my daughter used to play violin. But cello is my favorite orchestra instrument. And your daughter is gorgeous playing it. You should record a solo and put in on your blog here for all to enjoy. I month or so ago I was memorized by "The Book of Images" in the bookstore. I was 1/4 of the way through it when I realized I had better just purchase it. I will look forward to following your and Ruth's new blog!

  14. A month or so I was mesmerized ... oh my.

  15. Beautiful Isabel’s birthday: What a brilliant beginning to the year and decade twenty years ago.

    I understand letters being a workshop for writing poems.

    This post sings and declares the glory I feel in my heart about this poet-guide. I feel I could fly again (that happens when I come here . . . feet lifting off like a Chagall sky floater).

    I truly love the quotations you chose from The Poet’s Guide to Life and I see I must get that volume too. Amazing (!) that the things we hold can become more wholly and intensely their thing-ness, and stronger, by passing through our hands!! (This astonishes me.) To see these things as a child, and to make a home for them in ourselves . . . I gladly sit at this man’s feet and long for more, more, more. Thank goodness for the daily rhythm of the blog we’ll have.

    This is an alluringly beautiful introduction to Rilke and our blog, Lorenzo. If I were not already hooked, I would be now. Just as with life -- that the more I learn, the more I know what I don’t know -- the more Rilke I read, including your post (“dictation of existence”!), the more I realize how little I know of him and his work and life. It is such a delicious prospect to set out on this exploration of the constellation of Rilke with you and our friends.

  16. Hola Lorenzo.
    Acabo de encontrar tu fabuloso blog gracias a Steven from Canada... Este mundo es un pañuelo, dicen, y el de los blogs tb- nos llevan y traen hacia sitios y gente maravillosa.

    So pleased to meet you.


  17. May the coming year be filled with riches of the heart, embracing life.

  18. Hi Lorenzo,

    Reading the quotes you share here from Rilke makes me breathe more deeply into my being, recentering any misalignments in the moment. May your new blog bring 'the melody of a thousand voices' to Rilke's 'one shared melody'.

    Coming to your blog, I always feel eager and open, like a child, for I know I will experience a unique artfulness that nourishes nascent visions and impulses within. Yes, "Art is childhood."

    Thank you.

  19. I'm sure it's the other side of wonderful but I just can't for the life of me 'get into' poetry. Perhaps a little more exposure will enhance it's charm. Congratulations to your daughter, she's very beautiful and talented by the look of her, you must be very proud. And happy new year to you and your family. Look forward to seeing your comments on Panoramic Mindscapes too.

  20. He certainly makes a lot of good points in those snippets, will check out the daily Rilke whenever I need some wisdom during the year - (so probably daily)

  21. What a lovely introduction to your and Ruth's new blog! I had some Rilke in college & have read him here and there over the years--he is a favorite--but I know that I will learn so much thanks to the two of you. Already you have both shown me something new.

    A very happy 2011 to you and your family, Lorenzo! And a very happy 20th birthday to your beautiful daughter!

  22. Happy New Year, and I look forward to the Rilke blog. I haven't read much of him since college years when my grasp of German was actually pretty decent.

  23. Happy New Year, Lorenzo & a very happy belated birthday to your lovely daughter. I look forward to learning about Rilke through your blog. You are always an inspiration.

  24. Bravo, encore, applause!!

    I've been meaning to stop by here since yesterday and seep myself in Rilke, visit you & Ruth's new blog, and seep some more. Off I go, indebted, grateful, feliz.

    Gracias, Lorenzo.

  25. PS: Your hija is a beauty, you must be so proud, chamber music makes me weep, we caught a chamber concert in London at Trafalgar Square, so sacred, I don't know where to begin to write about it...

  26. A Very Happy New Year to you and your family, Lorenzo! Your daughter is beautiful, and obviously talented like her dad. I'm excited to hear about the Rilke blog as well--I know I'll learn from you since I have only dipped into his work on my own. Thanks for taking that on! Sounds wonderful! I'm heading there now.

  27. She's beautiful, as are your pictures.
    Happy New Year! and thank you for stopping by!

    warm smiles,

  28. Beautiful Post, Happy birthday to your very talented daughter and the beginning of a new post.



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