Our theme for the library this year is What a Wonderful World, and to that end, we’re focusing on seeing the wonder in our world. Usually, every month at the desk, we have an article available for patrons to read and discuss with Julie, our library director, but this year, we’re handing out poems instead. Our trusty library goose is also helping us pen a monthly column that focuses on some of the gems in our poetry collection.
For August, our poem is Rainier Maria Rilke’s “Sunset.” Rilke is a noted late 19th century/early 20th century Austrian poet who is often considered a bridge between more traditional poetry and the modernist school. Rilke’s also one of the best-known German-language poets in the English-speaking world. His elegant, lyrical work is often billed as “mystical.”
Rilke’s career as a poet was highly shaped by his longtime friend and muse and one-time lover, Lou Andreas-Salomé. She was a writer in her own right, as well as a psychoanalyst. She functioned as a mentor for the young Rilke, introducing him to her network of prominent friends, recommending reading material to him, and even urging him to change his first name from René to Rainer.
The story of Rilke’s relationship with Andreas-Salomé reminds me of another poet from that time period whose work is also frequently described as mystical–Kahlil Gibran. Born in Lebanon, Gibran immigrated to the United States as a child. Like Rilke, Gibran’s life was shaped by an influential, older female mentor/confidante. Gibran’s Andreas-Salomé was Mary Haskell, a schoolmistress who financially supported him and edited his work. They were at one point engaged, but even when that fell through, they remained close friends. Their relationship is immortalized in Beloved Prophet, a collection of their love letters, which you can find in the poetry section of the Berryville Public Library.
Who is your favorite poet? What’s your favorite poem? Do you ever write poetry? Tell us in the comments! As always, please follow this link to our online library catalog for more information on this item or to place it on hold.