Transcending Angels

Published: July 21, 2015

In the ‘Duino Elegies,’ written between 1912 and 1922, Ranier Maria Rilke attempted to come to terms with his own personal crises and the destruction of European culture during and after World War I. The elegies sought new ways to communicate what seemed ever more incommunicable — humanity’s longing to transcend its moral limitations in a world increasingly dominated by self-consciousness. Rilke’s first line asks, ‘Who, if I cried, would hear me among the angelic orders?” Author Kathleen Komar reveals that Rilke’s answer lies, finally, not in the divine realm but in moving beyond the angels in order to return to the humanly possible world transformed by poetic language.