Response to Letters to a Young Poet


Goldsmiths Fine Art & History of Art BA 2009
158 pages
ISBN 978-1-904158-96-7

Practice and theory by 2009's 26 graduating students, with contributions from: Astrid Schmetterling, Adrian Rifkin, Susan Kelly and Alexander García Düttmann.

My text contribution was the following:

Extract from a response to Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1934)

London, March 2009

My dear Sir,

A question, which arises rather often to me while studying and working, is related to what you describe as necessity. Should one be doing what one does, and is there a deep need in the origins for a given profession and interest? I wonder whether this questioning in itself is a valid manner to dive into answering this. Letting doubt and reflection be helpful to further creation.

Sir, you talk about a certain artistic necessity and describe art as a life form. You advice to try to look at the world as if one saw it as for the first time, as some first human being. This experience of a necessity is in conjunction with looking at the world as if for the first time. In order to write poetry or make art one thus has to put oneself in a position without taking anything for granted, making no conclusions or prejudgements, but only trusting one's intuition.

As I wake up I consciously wear myself to walk out into the world. Depending on time and location the feeling, which fills my body and mind, is different as well as the line of thought that hits me. But one thing does repeat itself: The question of, how do I now walk out into the world, how do I land on the pavement and maintain my eyes and senses open to the happenings occurring around me? An extremely difficult task I find. The questions can be heavy, but never are they repetitive. Heavy because the answers can feel so distant, even absent. Never repetitive because I every time wake up in a new moment, having my now lived experiences with me, which undoubtedly colours the question of what now, and why?

You write about patience. That patience in everything, and being an artist is to be patient and not bound by time. In relation to this you explain how a work of art is of an infinite loneliness, which can not be reached with criticism because this is a too limiting approach. On the contrary, only love can grasp a work of art and be just to it. I am curious about your definition of love. I read an indirect description of love versus desire. You describe love as something, which respects the other's separateness and not being an appropriation. Desire and love is often seen together, and according to you they are two very different entities. Desire can be compared with criticism; the act of penetrating the other's body is the fulfilment of desire. On the contrary the fulfilment of love is to be able to embrace the other's detachment. Love is, as well as patience, non-consuming and timeless - it seems to be pure appreciation and understanding. This happens through patience and through recognizing and embracing one's solitude. Real love can then only appear in a balanced relationship, between two solitary beings. It is not a consuming act, and it is not acted out in order to reach an immediate satisfaction. Love exists when it is a deeper and an inner act. When one person can embrace another person's differences. Can love, both living and creating with love, be described as intuition? Intuition as an immediate form of approaching life and things?

I find it difficult to know how to balance between trusting my intuition and being patient because life will happen to me anyway. I both have to trust myself and the world’s natural spin. My influence on my thoughts and ideas is thus to effect my perception and outcome of a life which will happen anyhow. I then understand that you believe that the poet and artist's task is to reach what is already there. How to cope with such doubts? You write that doubt may become good when it becomes knowledge. The questions, which doubt arises may be productive and one should not dismiss doubt but keep pushing it demanding arguments. All this without falling into it. Always attempting to keep clarity, recognize one's solitude and have courage to explore the unexplored.

Marie Thams