Friday, 20 February 2009

The pond and the sea

The pond and the sea. As concepts, metaphors and symbols, they are really miles apart, aren't they? Take these two poems by Rainer Maria Rilke:

Firstly, the pond in Fortschritt/Progress:

wieder rauscht mein tiefes Leben lauter,
als ob es jetzt in breitern Ufern ginge.
Immer verwandter werden mir die Dinge
und alle Bilder immer angeschauter.
Dem Namenlosen fühl ich mich vertrauter:
Mit meinen Sinnen, wie mit Vögeln,
reiche ich in die windigen Himmel aus der Eiche,
und in den abgebrochnen Tag der Teiche
sinkt, wie auf Fischen stehend, mein Gefühl.

And an English version is here:

The deep parts of my life pour onward,
as if the river shores were opening out.
I seems that things are more like me now,
that I can see farther into paintings.
I feel closer to what language can't reach.
With my senses, as with birds, I climb
into the windy heaven, out of the oak,and in
the ponds broken off from the sky
my feeling sinks, as if standing on fishes.
(translation by Robert Bly)

Where the wild things live
Where the wild things live, detail
Soft pastel on Arches, 58x39cm

Secondly, Der Einsame/ The lonely one


Wie einer, der auf fremden Meeren fuhr,
so bin ich bei den ewig Einheimischen;
die vollen Tage stehn auf ihren Tischen,
mir aber ist die Fremde voll Figur.

In mein Gesicht reicht eine Welt herein,
die vielleicht unbewohnt ist wie ein Mond,
sie aber lassen kein Gefühl allein,
und alle ihre Worte sind bewohnt.

Die Dinge, die ich weither mit mir nahm,
sehn selten aus, gehalten an das Ihre - :
in ihrer großen Heimat sind sie Tiere,
hier halten sie den Atem an vor Scham.

I found a translation by Phillip Kellmeyer (with a few alterations)

The lonely one

Like someone who sailed distant seas,
I am with the ever natives;
full days are standing on their tables,
yet for me distance is full of promise.

In my face a world reaches in,
perhaps deserted like a moon,
they leave no feeling alone,
and all their words are inhabited.

The things which I took with me
look rare, compared to theirs -:
in their great home they are animals,
here they hold their breath in shame.

The one, the former, uses the pond as a metaphor for introspection: for digging deeper, further and further down to reveal, unearth one’s authentic self. ‘My sunken treasure’ by Duke Spirit captures that, don't you think so?

The other, the sea, is full of expectation, anticipation. The gaze turned to the horizon, the distance, the afar, expectant of what may come. Hm... while I've been doing some thinking around this when, before and after painting and printing, I think I may continue that - I find it helpful in trying to let some of the more abstract aspects of the scenes I'm working on develop.

What made me think of this? Distance did, and how it's connected so closely to the sea for me. It is becoming a bit clearer since I've continued to work on the ponds - in drawing as the detail above shows, but even more so in printing, but that's for another post.


Jeanette said...

Water in poetry has such symbolism. These poems are very strong and match your pastel drawing well.

I get a real sense of the water in this piece and it amazes me how you create that with an almost abstracted drawing. The colours are wonderful.

Sunken treasure indeed.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

That's an interesting poem - I've never read any Rilke before and don't know his work at all.

If this is a detail i'd love the see the whole artwork

Laureline said...

What a wonderful change of pace is your post! I haven't read Rilke in years---you remind me of how much I used to like his work. I'm titillated by the detail of your oil pastel piece, too---more, more!

Lindsay said...

It's too bad you can't see this exhibit in our city. This collaboration of vusual artists and poets was really rich. I like your idea to find your own match.

vivien said...

interesting poetry I hadn't read anything by him before

and I like the way the work is going too - lovely and loose but very watery

Gesa said...

Hm, Lindsay - this sounds very exciting: do they have a catalogue? The idea of doing something with words/paintings is brewing away in the background;

The symbolism is bubbling away at a slightly faster pace - I'm trying to get some means to translate/move/manouevre between impression/expression/abstraction. It also makes me think of what more to do with all my writing based/ academic work in this context... not quite there yet, but bubbling along.

Thanks very much for all your intrigue on the pastel sketch detail - it's part of my Wolf Kahn exploration, which I'm currently writing up... to be revealed soon (ups... that may be building up too much anticipation).

I've only discovered Rilke a couple of years back, but I'm fascinated by his sense of prescience (?) and playing with landscape imagery to write about emotions, very gently and very touching.

Lindsay said...

Here is the link for the catalogue, Gesa.

Gesa said...

Thanks for the link, Lindsay - did you have a look at the catalogue? Do you think it's worthwhile getting it? I'm very intrigued.

Africantapestry and Myfrenchkitchen said...

a great pastel Gesa...I evokes a feeling of unpredictability, like water; I have the feeling it may change any minute but I don't know how. to me it captures so much of the feeling of both poems.