Before business time, let’s just address the big ol’ elephant in the room. We haven’t posted in a while. You’re probably upset about it. I would be too if I was you seeing as we’re fucking hilarious and you probably miss laughing. But listen, MRG was cramming for the GREs and I was working like 40 hours last week and watching Battlestar Galactica. I’m a busy bitch, ok? But it’s my turn to deliver some historical scandal unto you and so I shall.
Rainer Maria Rilke is my favorite poet. Of all time. Granted, I could probably only name you like 6 poets. Maybe 4. Not many. You get the gist — I’m kind of a literary nincompoop. But I love me some Rilke. At my high school, about a quarter of senior AP English was dedicated to reading Rilke’s schmoetry and instead of hating his guts like most of my classmates, I embarked on my first and probably only literary love affair to date. It turned out to be pretty useful since I’ve encountered him at least twice in different classes in college. Plus it turns out that in addition to writing some pretty bangin’ lyrical prose, he did another kind of bangin’ that for sure makes him the stuff of for shame!
Rainer (nee Renee) was born in 1875 in Prague to a cra-cra mommy and a military nut job papa. The Rilkes had lost a baby girl before they had their son and as a result, Mrs. Rilke thought it would be a great idea to dress her son in girls’ clothes for most of his childhood. His father thought he would counteract this gender-bending by sending his son to a hard-core military school. But the kid’s an artist, ya know? He’s not into that shit. And at this point, he’s pretty fucking confused. Heck, I would be too if I spent my childhood thinking I was a dude and then started entering beauty pageants. So it’s a good thing that when he was 22 he met the married psychoanalyst Lou Andreas-Salome so she could straighten that shit out.
Lou was an alternative motherfucker who was known for her brains and her willingness to bone pretty much anyone as long as it wasn’t her husband. After she had her fill (EW) of Nietzsche and Freud and a slew of other big wig German philosophizers and intellectuals and artists, Rilke managed to dip his D in the Lou Pool. Their affair last about three years, until 1900. During that time, they went on a bunch of trips together — including a little hop and a skip over to Moscow to meet Leo Tolstoy where her husband joined in the fun. Who has a keyboard in front of them and thinks that must have been awkward? This guy! (Me. I’m talking about myself because I think it’s awkward and I’m typing on a keyboard.)
Later in 1900 he went to live at an “artists’ colony” in the north of Germany which I choose to imagine as a sex den with, like, paintings on the walls or something. At the colony/sex den, he met the sculptor Clara Westhoff and they hit it off right away. A few months later they were married and Clara had them a little baby named Ruth 9 months later.
Throughout their marriage, Rilke remained real tight with Lou…which probably wasn’t the biggest deal ever to Clara because she was training with Rodin and a bunch of other famous male sculptors and I just wouldn’t be surprised if she extramaritally touched parts with one of them at one point or another. Just saying.
Rilke was also BFFs with an abstract expressionist painter named Paula Becker who died tragically of an embolism days after giving birth to her first child. She and Rilke were very close “artistically” and it fucking destroyed him when she died. BUT we managed to get some of his greatest poetry EVERRR out of her death, so I’m not too broken up about it.
During the war years, he had an affair with a different Lou, Lou Albert-Lasard, a German Jewish painter lady. She and Rilke lived together in Vienna from 1914-1916 while she was still married. AWKWARD. But they ran with a really sick crowd while there. Regular invites to their love den include Paul Klee and Stefan Zweig.
Rilke and Clara wanted to get a divorce probably around this time, but WOOPSIES, Rilke was an official Catholic and there’s no getting out of that marriage shit when you’ve got the pope riding your ass, youknowwhatimsaying?! So they remained married until Rilke’s death of leukemia in 1926. Meanwhile, they both probably did a lot of illicit and uncatholic things with a lot of different people. Artists!
I’ll geek out for just a hot second now before signing off. My favorite poem of Rilke’s is called “Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes.”, it isn’t one of the famous Sonnets to Orpheus, but it’s still kind of amazing. The poem tells the story of Orpheus and Eurydice but puts an emphasis on the experience and perspective of Eurydice, the woman. It is quite wonderful. My other favorite thing that he did, which I read in high school, is the Letters to a Young Poet. It is a compilation of the ten letter correspondence he kept with Franz Kappus, a 19 year old military school student who wanted to be a poet and wrote to him asking advice. I’m trying not to sound like a little bitch here, but Letters to a Young Poet is one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever experienced. I know you’re probably not going to run out and get a copy, even though I’ve provided you with such a convenient link, so here’s a little excerpt. Indulge me and read it, assholes:
For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation. That is why young people, who are beginners in everything, are not yet capable of love: it is something they must learn.
Uhhh, and also fuck bitches and shit.