favorite things

by Jennifer on May 21, 2008

This may be my favorite passage, from anyone, about writing. I read it for the first time almost 10 years ago, and somehow have forgotten about it for long stretches at a time. I really should frame it and hang it above my desk. The passage is from Rilke’s only novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, and is often referred to as “Blood-Remembering.”

Ah! but verses amount to so little when one writes them young. One ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness a whole life long, and a long life if possible, and then, quite at the end, one might perhaps be able to write ten lines that were good. For verses are not, as people imagine, simply feeling (those one has early enough), – they are experiences. For the sake of a single verse, one must see many cities, men and things, one must know the animals, one must feel how the birds fly and know the gesture with which the little flowers open in the morning. One must be able to think back to roads in unknown regions, to unexpected meetings and to partings one had long seen coming; to days of childhood that are still unexplained, to parents whom one had to hurt when they brought one some joy and one did not grasp it (it was a joy for someone else); to childhood illnesses that so strangely begin with such a number of profound and grave transformations, to days in rooms withdrawn and quiet and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, to nights of travel that rushed along on high and flew with all the stars – and it is not yet enough if one may think of all this. One must have memories of many nights of love, none of which was like the others, of the screams of women in labor, and of light, white, sleeping women in childbed, closing again. But one must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and the fitful noises. And still it is not yet enough to have memories. One must be able to forget them when they are many and one must have the great patience to wait until they come again. For it is not yet the memories themselves. Not till they have turned to blood within us, to glance and gesture, nameless and no longer to be distinguished from ourselves – not till then can it happen that in a most rare hour the first word of a verse arises in their midst and goes forth from them.

~from The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, by Rainer Maria Rilke

This song is beautiful, and the pairing of Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne is brilliant.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

slouching mom May 22, 2008 at 4:15 am

thank you for introducing me to that passage. it’s lovely.

slouching moms last blog post..Flying

Madge May 22, 2008 at 6:14 am

i love that passage — you’ve shared it with me before, but i had forgotten it.

Madges last blog post..FREE!! Blog Giveaway!!!

Dharmamama May 22, 2008 at 7:26 am

Wow. I hadn’t read that before, thanks so much.

I tried so hard to not like Jackson Browne when I read that he had been abusive to Daryl Hannah. Who wants to support a wife-beater? But I couldn’t, I just loved his music too much, it just resonates with my soul. I rationalized it by saying I could separate the music from the man. Now I read that it was all just rumors. Who knows?

Hold on, hold out… Keep a hold on strong…

Dharmamamas last blog post..Bah.

we_be_toys May 22, 2008 at 8:01 am

Beautiful and wise passage – I’ve never read that book. It reminded me a bit of some of the things Isadora Duncan says about her Art in her autobiography (thats what I’ve been reading in carpoop lately) – the need to amass experience in order to have something to say with any kind of depth.

And you can never go wrong with Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne – love em!

we_be_toyss last blog post..Who Needs Cable?

Daryl May 22, 2008 at 8:02 am

I have met Jackson and he is a very unique and gifted man. I love Bonnie Raitt in fact I have her on my iPod right now… I had never heard this duet .. thank you for it and the exposure to Rilke!


Daryls last blog post..how i met my man

Sandy (Momisodes) May 22, 2008 at 11:55 am

Such a beautiful passage. I could read it over and over. I can see why you love it. 🙂 Thanks for sharing it.

Sandy (Momisodes)s last blog post..Bribery Will Get You…Broke

Kellan May 22, 2008 at 12:06 pm

Great passage – thanks for that. And, I am a BIG Bonnie Raitt fan – BIG – loved this song – LOVE IT!!

Have a good afternoon – see you – Kellan

Kellans last blog post..Summertime, Summertime … Sum, Sum, Summertime …

Suzanne May 22, 2008 at 7:22 pm

Good Lord, thank you for including that song…it was so lovely, I just wanted to hook my stereo speakers up to my computer.

And thank you for reminding me how brilliant Rilke is, so much wisdom has come from that source. I remember the first time that I visited your blog I saw your reference to a Rilke book and I instantly recalled how much that book meant to me. And that was one of the things that signaled to me that you would be someone I wanted to read. And you have not disappointed me in the least since.

All the best,

Suzannes last blog post..Find My Mountain Home: I Need YOUR Help!

flutter May 22, 2008 at 7:36 pm

That is gorgeous, Jennifer

flutters last blog post..I need to get some sleep, seriously.

D / Momma May 23, 2008 at 6:13 am

How true it is that we need a lot of experience to create rich characters, situations, and poetry. Sure, there are some child prodigies out there, like Bret Easton Ellis, who can write early and often. For me I found that my writing is so much more complex now. I like it a lot better.

Have a great weekend.

Peace – D

D / Mommas last blog post..And now for something completely different

Milena May 23, 2008 at 7:00 am

Since I first found him, I’ve loved Rilke so much that I even have books of his in their original German editions ( a language I do not read). This is known to me but no less beautiful. I will frame it too. Thank you.

Crazycath May 23, 2008 at 5:52 pm

Beautiful words. Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing those with us.

Crazycaths last blog post..It’s been one of those days.

JCK May 26, 2008 at 10:33 pm

Loved this Rilke section! Thanks for sharing this.

And for sharing the music! Gotta love that Bonnie!

JCKs last blog post..Collecting clouds and the Witsy, Witsy Spider

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