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The Calculated Sentiments of Rainer— James Storbakken

Aug 25, 2022 | Non Fiction | 0 comments

The Gazelle

Gazella Dorcas

Enchanted one: how shall the harmony
of two perfect words attain that rhyme
which ripples through you like a spell?
From your forehead rise leaf and lyre,

and all you are already moves in simile
through love songs whose words, softly
like rose petals, settle on the gaze of one
who, no longer reading, closes his eyes:

and sees you there: transported, as if
each limb were charged with leaps and only
held its fire for the instant your neck
keeps your head still, listening: as when a woman
bathing in a forest hears something stir:
the lake’s reflection in her quick-turned face.

Translated from the German by Edward Snow

As we are subsequently caught up in the passing gust of life, our youth is forgotten; Time is a ghost’s hunger; our dreams are our pains; we seek only the unseen suns (on NASA telescopes, etc.); kaleidoscopes and caricatures are chiaroscuroed into cycloptic centrifugal petals of wonder, no wonder the talisman fell below the doorknob, onto the floor I mean, on the floor I mean— a passing, entering, exiting, doorway worthy and so thus exemplified literary gust of wind. I am thinking of Rilke’s poem, and I am seeking the wonder of his poetry’s symptom under the guise of my own lack of heroics, i.e., my own pitifully life-mesmerized and brittle-spirited thought patterns.

The first poem, the one left above, dated July 17, 1907, is a reminder of youth. List the characteristics of our youth’s cumbersome dispatch. I was harried, arrogant, helplessly naïve, intelligent, discerning, piercing, all of these things. I was when I was young. Yes, sure, but I was full of anxiety and depression and latent self-esteem issues and a bunch of other things notwithstanding; thus, I was a gazelle. I was. The eyes fixed: Norman Mailer’s headlights show firm through the fog of fate’s old, windy, windy seaside road. Caught. Published. Accounted for. The second of Rilke’s poems included and made use of here is der Panther .

Panther eats the Gazelle: Gazelle becomes the Panther. Poetic becoming (a particular and somewhat astrologically founded subject, one which happened to be well-fitted for a certain sensitive Jewish man born on the 4th of December, 1875, in Prague, Bohemia [modern day Austria]). I was a young, stuttering, blue-eyed poet once. The Letters were to me, and millions of others like me (Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet , a vibrant epistolary must for any young poet). I was once die Gazelle . I am now der Panther. I write. I stand, muscular, Rainerian. I pace. I love and contemplate my love with a fierceness uncompanionable, thus caged. I am the Promethean caretaker and the mature artist. I am he.

The Panther 

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly–. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart, and is gone.

Translated from the German by Stephen Mitchell

And here we have life portraited, no longer young, but now. What I am saying, folks, in this little piece, in the unvast and varied exposition of this great little literary jargon machine of mine noisily chatting away with itself on its hubris-burnt sunchariot, its chaotic ύβρις bundle, its clappity-clap claptrap of Joycean and Deadleadus sun-bound wheels, with no, not Jack Nicholson type wings, but with one of those fly-worthy jets of style and poetic character which can be descried throughout Hugo’s collection of prefaces among other places, let it be noted, yes, this little insight of mine, written here by a genuine and worthy soul, yet one who paces back and hither in his own familiar cave of jewels, represents our life here and now, and it represents it as realistically as ever was merely possible; what I am trying to say, folks, is that we have a great big conceit on our hands here: it was concocted Wollstonecraftlike , electrically and symbolically and symbiotically from one animal to another, from one poet to another, from one age to a subsequent one, wavelike, from one big Metaphysical Spanish conceit constructed out of a string-theorized life to one constructed out of the remains of such a poetic life. Rainer (thanks to Munich and Mme. Lou Andreas-Salomé and a peace of mind, Rainer Maria Rilke and not René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke, the latter being his birth name, the former being the name Rainer decided was probably a more masculine and fitting one for a strapping young male poet) (in the quaint form of an arm pitted pre-WWII hardcover edition of one of his early books of poetry) and William Goldman (in the form of a botched film-and-novel quote) and a Modern Retro-Philosophical Beatnik (the Narrator, quoth the vain, quoth the vanity) walk into a bar in Órgiva , Spain on a Sábado (Saturday).

My name is Inigo Montoya, you wrote my heart’s manifesto, prepare to become poetically immortal.1

The panther, pacing behind the bars of a cage, represents life as I am living it now: a lackadaisically successful prose writer, a busy-bodying poet, a father to a beautiful daughter, a dish-washer, a construction worker, a cook, an English Teacher, and a flower-picking panther. The catch is just this, gentle reader: I’ve hidden a puzzle in this short Aristotelian (rebellious) review’s Andalusian dispatch; the puzzle can be rendered as follows: the gazelle was presented as weak, but through its fragility (as in, through our youth) lies its strength, and der Panther was presented as trapped and barred, caged and stuck, but these essential characteristics are usurped by a massive sense of love and thus nullified (as it goes with solitude’s invention and the birth of fatherhood). The panther is merely the thinking mammal, he is the old German pessimist who is stuck in his Faustian head, he is the archaic and sensual allegory of the trap of the mind. And the man, the Narrator, he paces wildly on his own two buckling legs, far behind thoughts, far behind intimations, in bog water so shallow as to approach destitution and a lack of a sense of hope— yet, a light. The bars were only lines, symptoms, and lyrics. For, as we know by now, he is a poet. Enchanted one: how shall the harmony of two perfect words attain that rhyme which ripples through you like a spell?


[1] This famous quote is spoken by Inigo Montoya, played by Mandy Patinkin in The Princess Bride  (directed by Rob Reiner , 1987). It’s also a line from the original book  by William Goldman .

Also, read another insight written by James Storbakken for The Antonym 

A Picnic in the Sunshine with Knausgaard and Proust— James Storbakken

James Storbakken

James Storbakken

James Harold Storbakken is an American poet, novelist, short story writer, and gastronomie/food writer. He is the author of a book of poems, A Portrait of Odysseus Under the Ithacan Sun, and his fiction, non-fiction, translations, and poetry have been published in a number of various anthologies, journals, and literary magazines. He currently lives in Andalusia.


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