Reading Rainer Maria Rilke’s Poetry During a Pandemic

April 12, 2021

At Ploughshares, Elizabeth Gonzalez James reflects on why she finds herself reading the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke in the midst of lockdown and how it’s a salve to her feelings of confusion and frustration. “I’ve found myself turning to these poems again and again over the last year,” James writes. “Rilke’s longing for God mirrors my own longing for meaning amid so much tragedy. And though in this last year I have often, or more likely have been always filled with some mixture of condemnation, anger, and doubt, Rilke’s words give me space to release myself from the prison of my own feelings, and offer an alternative, even curative, way to live in the world. ‘Let everything happen to you,’ he writes, ‘beauty and terror. / Just keep going. No feeling is final. / Don’t let yourself lose me.'”

is a writer and illustrator. She is the author of two illustrated books, Last Night's Reading (Penguin Books, 2015) and Sanpaku (Archaia 2018).

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