Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Web of Influence

Over at the website of the Poetry Foundation, writer Geoff Dyer has a thoughtful essay entitled "Genius Envy" which deals with Rilke, Rodin, Cezanne, the photographer Edward Steichen, and the web that connects them all. Dyer explores how artists of different disciplines have inspired one another, and how in experiencing the world's great works of art we are all inevitably led to meander through this web of inspiration, tributes, references, and poetic iterations.

I believe this idea is one of the major themes in Lost Son, and Dyer articulates my own sense, while writing the novel, of beholding ever-unfolding vistas (in my case, from Rilke to Lou Andreas-Salome, Gerhardt Hauptmann, Clara Westhoff, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Rodin, Jens Peter Jacobsen, Cezanne, Baudelaire, Eugene Atget)....

Here's a bit from Dyer's piece:

"Rilke struggled to directly translate what he considered the sculptor’s most distinct quality—his ability to create things—into the “thing-poems” [Dinggedichte] of 1907-8.

As the young Rilke had come to write about Rodin and his work, so the young Edward Steichen came to photograph Rodin and his creations....Rodin became convinced not just of Steichen’s individual talent but of photography’s viability as an art form.

....Whatever your starting point, whether your particular interest is poetry (Rilke), photography (Steichen), sculpture (Rodin), or fiction (Balzac), you will, so to speak, be led astray. After this meeting there will be dispersal. And the dispersal will lead, in turn, to new meetings, new convergences....

In real life our chances of meeting people are limited and contingent. In the realm of art and literature those constraints are removed; everyone is potentially in dialogue with everyone else irrespective of chronology and geography."

The Rilke/Cezanne connection is likewise discussed by W.S. Di Piero in his essay "Only Collect," also at the Poetry Foundation website.


  1. Hey there..
    It is feeling so ravishing....To see another person who shares the same madness. I love Rilke and I trust the words of the Russian poetess that Rilke's poems cannot be thought of as the best because, as she argues,best already involves comparison.It is Poetry itself.

  2. Must confess first that I have not read your work, but came here to encourage you and introduce myself as a young writer. I've seen your first novel in quality bookstores and it is quite tempting. Also wanted to extend a greeting as a fellow McCarthy fan.

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Eric. The encouragement is much appreciated -- and more important to writers (I among them) than is commonly guessed. So right back at you, as I like the pictures and the fine, effortless descriptions on your blog. Enjoy the McCarthy experience. And if you haven't yet read his entire body of work, take it slow. It's a bitter thing, as a reader, to have finished it all.

  4. Am flattered by your compliments. I hope that sometime soon you'll be able to say the same for my "real" writing --I've submitted to your publisher.

    Afraid I've read all of McCarthy's novels. It is a bitter thing. Will be resorting to his plays soon, I imagine.