An Unanswered Letter By Rainer Maria Rilke: Reading and Meditation

October 13, 2020  • Todd Breyfogle

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My friends know that I often leave letters unanswered for a long time. This is a sign of neglect, to be sure, but also a sign of respect. To reply meaningfully requires a space of mind and heart that is not so easily found these days. Our means of communication demands a responsiveness to lesser things and often consumes the oxygen that allows a deeper expression to breathe. Words linger, they turn themselves over in the imagination—both the words of the unanswered letter and the words of the unwritten reply. In this letter to a young poet, Rilke writes of the excessive noise of the city, noise that causes everything to echo and fade away differently. He contrasts this with the simplicity of nature that allows him to say the unsayable; he is surrounded by an enormous landscape which creates a space within. What letters have you left unanswered? What inner landscape may you rest upon to find ways to say the unsayable? 


Todd Breyfogle, Denver, Colorado

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