by Kleitia Vaso

The most powerful feelings, the most beautiful images are expressed in the shortest and simplest sentences. Therefore, poetry -despite people too often indulging in it as a hobby because of its misleading brevity – is the most difficult genre, the most ridiculous when it fails and the most extraordinary when it works.

Nobody knows but I often play and replay lines of favorite poems in my head, especially when I feel vulnerable or particularly dramatic. There are several favorite poems and poets but Rilke is the one that moves me the most. I am in awe of someone who can combine a powerful mind with an overwhelming capacity to feel. The two seem naturally related but look around and you’ll see that they often aren’t. He appears to have had the enviable ability of loving people, places, things so much that he, for a moment, for however long it lasted, became one with them. It suffices to say that the only poem that I know by heart is one of his (shorter) poems.

One of my favorite lines, though, belongs to another one of his masterpieces, Orpheus.Eurydice.Hermes, the title of which alone could trigger countless thoughts and ideas. The poem recounts, in Rilke’s way, Orpheus’ journey to the underworld to bring his beloved Eurydice back to the living world. The only thing he must not do is turn back and look at Eurydice and Hermes, the messenger god, who are walking behind him. He must believe that they are following him. Orpheus does turn but, in Rilke’s interpretation, this turning and his permanent loss of her matters only to him and not to her, who perhaps hasn’t even noticed. Although Orpheus becomes distraught at the thought that through his impatient gesture he loses Eurydice, she was lost already.  She, Rilke alludes, calmly walking beside Hermes and behind Orpheus, has already adapted to the separation with the living world and “was so deep within herself, like a woman heavy / with child, and did not see the man in front / of the path ascending steeply into life. / Deep within herself. Being dead / filled her beyond fulfillment.”

These last two lines are my favorites and express an emotion, a state that is difficult to describe except through these verses. The only times I’ve begun to grasp their meaning is during moments of great happiness or sadness, states so fully absorbing that they envelop one into a cocoon, separate from the surroundings, the street and its passerby, any room and the people in it, work and the many people there too. There exist emotions strong enough to create their own world which, through their sheer strength, overpower and momentarily annihilate the concreteness and importance of the real world.

I remember once, a few years ago, I received a present so beautiful from someone who expected nothing in return except for this gift to bring me happiness. It was so extraordinary and overwhelming that for the longest time afterward, I wanted to be alone and walk around the city in a haze, not looking at the other passerby but filled with my own well-being, so filled, in fact, that it seemed to almost spill over and touch others as well. I felt so detached that I almost felt inhuman, like a god, a kind of a Venus, reflecting some of the love and gratitude I felt within.

In these types of states, which unfortunately are rare, I am reminded of the beauty of the title I am Love, a better title than movie in fact. In terms of the film, the phrase refers to something slightly different from the meaning I want from it, specifically to love coming, sure of itself, unstoppable and undeniable, which is also a rare experience. Regarding the all-absorbing states, the title assumes a softer role, simultaneously creating and conveying the gradually-enveloping sensation of merging with the world even if for a brief but powerful instant.

The same fullness occurs with sadness; but, often, one does not want to share it, it does not spill over but creates an impenetrable veil of isolation and, ultimately, belongs only to the suffering person. Yet, the extreme case of this also regales the sufferer with an extraordinary allure but, at most, one can resemble a tragic Greek character and not a goddess.

by Kleitia Vaso