Thursday, October 6, 2016

Letters from a Poet

Do you know Rainier Maria Rilke?  A very lyrical German, Rilke was renowned for his delicate depiction of the workings of the human heart—a man after my own heart.  This is one of my goals—this delicate depiction—especially in poetry, but as part of my life and ministry in spiritual formation for artists. Perhaps it’s why I resonate so much with Rilke, and use his poems in my work. 

Recently I received a “letter"--an email:

“Patricia. If you send me one poem from Transplants, and I drool over it in awe and don’t puzzle over it due to its complexity, I will contemplate purchasing the whole book.”—F


Challenge accepted. 

We began an email thread that was positively delicious.  He appreciated my guided tour through 2 poems, as much as I appreciated his way with words, and final enthusiasm for the poems.  He decided to order Transplants (happy dance). 

Our correspondence reminded me of Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet—“written to a young man about to enter the German military. His name was Franz Kappus, he was 19 years old, and he wrote Rilke looking for guidance and a critique of some of his poems. Rilke was himself only 27 when the first letter was written. The resulting five year correspondence is a virtual owner's manual on what it is (and what is required) to be an artist and a person.”—Billy Carrothers***

The idea was born, in the midst of our email flurry, to create my own “Letters," following Rilke’s lead.  My friend is not alone. Poetry is so foreign to most Americans, and FOAS (fear of appearing stupid) inhibits many rich, fruitful and enlivening conversations. 

Can I dare you not to dwell in FOAS, but ask a question.  Ask me what a poem means! 

Better yet, I’ll be posting some of the poems soon and how they came to be.  I hope it whets your appetite for more poetry in your life, hopefully including mine. 

***If you don’t want to order the book, you can read it online at Carrothers’ site.  


“Drawn by some sympathetic note in his poems, young people often wrote to Rilke with their problems and hopes. From 1903 to 1908 Rilke wrote a series of remarkable responses to a young, would-be poet on poetry and on surviving as a sensitive observer in a harsh world.”--Amazon blurb 


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