Early morning reading list

I set out to write poems today. But, like yesterday, nothing (so far). Actually, there would have been something if I actually didn’t keep hitting “delete” over and over and over. Something about this topic frightens me (and it’s not even a daunting topic, really! But I have to get through this somehow if ends are to meet grrrr). Or maybe lately I’ve learned to distrust (fear?) my own words (hence, more writing done in the personal journal that for the past few months has functioned as a paperweight around the house). I don’t know, I don’t know.

So. To be productive, I just annotated some stuff from Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet (I have a compulsive tendency to make notes).

Here’s something from it: To walk inside yourself & meet no one for hours- that is what you must be able to attain.

Given: I am determined to avoid some (if not most) people until I accomplish what I set out to do (it IS my last summer after all. And given how I’ve been mostly disappointed with myself and how little I’ve been accomplishing lately… I figure this plan of action is in order).

Right now I am reading these- both by Rachel Zucker- while waiting for a poem to kick in (if not, there’s always tomorrow. But I kind of want to ram my head to a wall now, for not being productive enough):


Excerpts from some things I am reading:

Thus your embraces almost promise you / eternity. And yet, after you survive the terror / of the first look, and the long yearning at the window, / and the first walk – the one walk – together through the garden: / lovers, are you still the same?

– Rilke [trans by Edward Snow], The Second Elegy



February sat on a cottage floor with a girl who smelled of smoke and honey. The girl was telling him that she was tired of being around someone who carried so much sadness in his body. February drew his kneecaps to his eye sockets.

February apologized. He rocked back and forth. When he stretched his legs back out the girl was smiling and running in place. February asked what she was doing. The girl who smelled of honey and smoke said it was to cheer him up. I don’t think that’s going to work, said February. I’m sorry, but it just won’t.

Just try it, said the girl who smelled of honey and smoke. Please.


Short list found in February’s Back Pocket

  1. I’ve done everything I can.
  2. I need to know you won’t leave.
  3. I wrote a story to show love, and it turned to war. How awful.
  4. I twisted myself around stars and poked the moon where the moon couldn’t reach.
  5. I’m the kind of person who kidnaps children and takes flight.

– from p.51 and 55 of Shane Jones’ Light Boxes

For here there is no place that does not see you

Archaic Torso of Apollo         
by Rainer Maria Rilke
Translated by Stephen Mitchell

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.

I will let someone else explain-

An excerpt from Letter 8 by Rainer Maria Rilke

Borgeby gard, Fladie, Sweden
August 12, 1904

We are solitary. We can delude ourselves about this and act as if it were not true. That is all. But how much better it is to recognize that we are alone; yes, even to begin from this realization. It will, of course, make us dizzy; for all points that our eyes used to rest on are taken away from us, there is no longer anything near us, and everything far away is infinitely far. A man taken out of his room and, almost without preparation or transition, placed on the heights of a great mountain range, would feel something like that: an unequalled insecurity, an abandonment to the nameless, would almost annihilate him. He would feel he was falling or think he was being catapulted out into space or exploded into a thousand pieces: what a colossal lie his brain would have to invent in order to catch up with and explain the situation of his senses. That is how all distances, all measures, change for the person who becomes solitary; many of these changes occur suddenly and then, as with the man on the mountaintop, unusual fantasies and strange feelings arise, which seem to grow out beyond all that is bearable. But it is necessary for us to experience that too. We must accept our reality as vastly as we possibly can; everything, even the unprecedented, must be possible within it.

This is in the end the only kind of courage that is required of us: the courage to face the strangest, most unusual, most inexplicable experiences that can meet us. The fact that people have in this sense been cowardly has done infinite harm to life; the experiences that are called ”apparitions,” the whole so-called “spirit world,” death, all these Things that are so closely related to us, have through our daily defensiveness been so entirely pushed out of life that the senses with which we might have been able to grasp them have atrophied. To say nothing of God. But the fear of the inexplicable has not only impoverished the reality of the individual; it has also narrowed the relationship between one human being and another, which has as it were been lifted out of the riverbed of infinite possibilities and set down in a fallow place on the bank, where nothing happens. For it is not only indolence that causes human relationships to be repeated from case to case with such unspeakable monotony and boredom; it is timidity before any new, inconceivable experience, which we don’t think we can deal with. but only someone who is ready for everything, who doesn’t exclude any experience, even the most incomprehensible, will live the relationship with another person as something alive and will himself sound the depths of his own being. for if we imagine this being of the individual as a larger or smaller room, it is obvious that most people come to know only one corner of their room, one spot near the window, one narrow strip on which they keep walking back and forth. In this way they have a certain security. And yet how much more human is the dangerous insecurity that drives those prisoners in Poe’s stories to feel out the shapes of their horrible dungeons and not be strangers to the unspeakable terror of their cells. We, however, are not prisoners. No traps or snares have been set around us, and there is nothing that should frighten or upset us. We have been put into life as into the element we most accord with, and we have, moreover, through thousands of years of adaptation, come to resemble this life so greatly that when we hold still, through a fortunate mimicry we can hardly be differentiated from everything around us. We have no reason to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust inthe difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience. How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

You don’t have to read this part, since it embarrasses me but I wrote it down anyway so I have something to refer to.

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