Thursday, August 15, 2013

Poet Anne Michaels and Painter Paula Modersohn-Becker

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) was a German painter and one of the most important representatives of early expressionism. In a brief career, cut short by an embolism at the age of 31, she created groundbreaking images of great intensity including a portrait of her friend and admirer Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). I quote an excerpt from poet Anne Michaels’ dramatic monologue published in Miner’s Pond (1991).


I started again; where everything starts:

at the body. Classes in life-drawing,

training my hand to see.

In Paris alone,

my family waiting for me to give up

so I could go back to being “happy.”

Every day, failure boiled up into my throat

and stayed there.
R. M. Rilke

Obsession is the sacrifice of light

to the richness of submergence.

But love is separation,

the membrane of the orange dividing itself,

the surface of silver

that turns glass into a mirror.

There’s failure in every choice.

Art emerged from silence;

silence, from one’s place in the world.

Click here to read R. M. Rilke’s tribute to Modersohn-Becker “Requiem for a Friend”

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