Rilke on Criticism

Here, now, the birds start up early. The first sleepy chirp sounds at 3:30. A real chirpfest by four am. Head under pillows, what’s left but to push back the percale and stumble out and make coffee and sit watching the light come. The white sky deepens to clear blue--the green of new leaves, the climbing rose spilling yellow blossoms over the balcony.

People have their favorites, but when sleep is not an option I read Rilke. I go back to Letters to a Young Poet. It's not just for the young. In the face of these clear words, everyone is young.

Here’s something from Rilke about criticism. It may seem strange coming from me, since I write criticism. But I agree with him.

“… And let me here promptly make a request: read as little as possible of aesthetic criticism— such things are either partisan views, petrified and grown senseless in their lifeless induration, or they are clever quibblings in which today one view wins and tomorrow the opposite. Works of art are of an infinite loneliness and with nothing so little to be reached as with criticism. Only love can grasp and hold and be just to them.

Consider yourself and your feeling right every time with regard to every such argumentation, discussion or introduction; if you are wrong after all, the natural growth of your inner life will lead you slowly and with time to other insights. Leave to your opinions their own quiet undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be pressed or hurried by anything.

Everything is gestation and then bringing forth. To let each impression and each germ of a feeling come to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own intelligence, and await with deep humility and patience the birth-hour of a new clarity: that alone is living the artist’s life: in understanding as in creating.”