In this essay, Mark Burrows, Poetry Editor of the SSCS journal Spiritus, explores Rilke’s focus on the role of the imagination in our inner transformation. Our fragmentary lives can be made whole through the power of the kind of archetypal imagery one can find in poetry. Here’s a portion of Burrow’s introductory paragraph:
Poetic language . . . is dynamic. One might even say that it is determinative of change, of the kind of interior change that alters the way we inhabit our lives and our world. But how does one ‘find’ such images for this journey of growth? Where do they come from? Rilke turns to such questions in a poem written a few years later, in 1902, describing poets as artists who are ‘enclosed in themselves’, and thereby ‘gather images both murmuring and deep’: ‘They go out and ripen through metaphor’, as he suggests, ‘and remain alone their whole life’ (Die Gedichte 243 ). The poet, in Rilke’s mind at least, must accept a life of solitude, the experience of Einsamkeit that sug- gests both ‘aloneness’ and a sense of loneliness at once. The poet’s capacity to attend to this phenomenon has something of the eremitic about it, and indeed this conviction seems to shape the collection of poems Rilke wrote after returning from Russia in the fall of 1899 – The Prayers, later published as The Book of Monastic Life.
Here is a citation for the essay:
Burrows, Mark S. “‘Like a word still ripening in the silences’: Rainer Maria Rilke and the Transformations of Poetry.” In Poetic Revelations: Word Made Flesh Made Word, edited by Mark S. Burrows, Jean Ward, Małgorzata Grzegorzewska, 107-116. New York: Routledge, 2017.