February 10, 2009

experience > emotion

In the aged copy of selected works of Rilke that I picked up at a library sale, there is an excerpt from The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge titled [FOR THE SAKE OF A SINGLE POEM] in no-nonsense capital letters.
"Ah, poems amount to so little when you write them too early in your life. ... For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)--they are experiences. For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and Things, you must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighborhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still unexplained, to parents whom you had to hurt when they brought in a joy and you didn't pick it up (it was a joy meant for somebody else--)..."
I'm having a hard time grasping that last segment about parents, but I love the idea of "a joy meant for somebody else." For whom was it meant? And isn't it interesting how you don't need to understand something completely before you know you love it? Just like you don't have to understand someone in order to love them.