The Luminous Words of Rilke

More than a century has passed since Rainer Maria Rilke wrote the poems in our volume, Prayers of a Young Poet. Rilke’s poetry chronicles a search for the divine: in the ordinary details of the everyday and the mystery of our inner life, and the courage to embrace whatever comes – whether darkness or light, despair or delight. With a distinctive blend of lyric vitality and spiritual authenticity, Rilke’s poems have found their way into the heart of readers today.

In celebration of National Poetry Month, we invite you to read an excerpt from Prayers of a Young Poet, translated by Mark S. Burrows.

We grasp You only in what we do,
illuminate You only with our hands;
our every sense is but a guest here,
yearning to reach beyond the world.

Every sense is conceived;
one feels its elegant hem,
and knows someone spun it —
but heaven surrenders itself
because it cannot choose.

I don’t want to know where You are;
speak to me from everyplace.
Your willing evangelist distorts
everything, and in his forgetting
neglects to look for the resonance.

But I’m always approaching You
with all my coming;
yet who am I and who are You
when neither of us understands the other?

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