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Rick Barot

Rick Barot’s second book of poems, Want, is forthcoming from Sarabande Books. His poems and essays have recently appeared in Agni, Gettysburg Review, and Post Road. He teaches at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.


Rilke’s Blue Flower

Fall 2006 | Essays

If Rilke’s early books had been an apprenticeship in the mercurial ways of mood and inspiration, the New Poems signaled a deliberateness that had no need for inspiration to get its work done. The books’ titles tell the story: while New Poems underscored a stark, workmanlike plainness, the earlier titles—Stories of God, The Book of Images, The Book of Hours—bespoke qualities of earnest spirituality and high lyricism. Rodin had come at the right time for Rilke. Against the mannered poetic figure Rilke constructed for himself as a younger man, Rodin introduced a tough physicality. In the New Poems, the best poems have an agility of perception that draws as much from the things perceived as from the poet’s receptivity. The objective world and the world of ego find a perfectly calibrated dynamic, one that renders both self and object glowingly, and impersonally, rich. Mental activity as action distinct from the mess of personality—Rilke saw the economy of this in Rodin.