Monday, February 16, 2009

Letters to a Young Poet

I was planning on blogging on Blue Velvet, but after watching it, I don’t think I understood enough of it to even scrounge a few sentences. So instead, I’m writing about the passage from “letters to a young poet” Krzys read us last Tuesday:

“You ask me if your verses are good. You ask me. … I beg you to give all that up. You are looking outwards, and of all things that is what you must now not do. Nobody can advise and help you, nobody. There is only one single means. Go inside yourself.”

I was rather struck by that line, and have since been reading (admittedly slowly) Letters to a Young Poet. Rilke often focuses on this idea, that we are inescapably alone in our experiences, and that writing is a necessarily solitary activity. However, as with seemingly every idea we cover in this class, it is not just black and white. If we take this statement at face value, it seems to suggest that we’re wasting our tuition, and that we’d learn much more about English by cooping up in a cave and writing all day without showing anyone. Although certainly I wish I had the courage to write and not care about what other people think, that’s not really the way the world works. If I’m working at a newspaper and I blow off my assignment to write ‘whatever comes out from inside me’ I will probably lose my job. Or if I blow off my next assigned work sample and instead write a blank verse poem about my favorite food (olives), I probably shouldn’t expect an A. The point being, while it is a nice ideal to write for only yourself, we must balance being true to ourselves with writing things that other people are going to want to read. Right? Or is writing something in a way that is intended to please the reader betraying the integrity of the text? Is there a fundamental difference between books that were meant to be mass-marketed (modern thriller or bestseller novels) and books that weren’t written with publishing in mind (posthumously published works, personal Journals)? If no one experiences life the same, then how can we meaningfully discuss a work of literature/can we ever understand a book the way the author meant it?

Anyway, all of this Letters to a Young Poet stuff inspired me, so here’s a little haiku (when it comes to poems, I cling to structure) I wrote. But no feedback please, I am now looking inwards :p

Things in my pocket

wallet phone keys bic
blue fountain pen receipt dime lint
;your love letter, torn

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