Widening Circles by Ranier Maria Rilke

One of my favorite podcasts is “On Being” with Krista Tippett. This week, her show featured an interview with Joanna Macy who, among other things, has translated the poetry of Ranier Maria Rilke into English. If you’re not a poetry person (yet), Rilke is a wonderful poet. Unfortunately for those of us who are only fluent in English, Rilke’s poems are written in German. So, a wonderful translator like Joanna Macy is a gift. She shared this poem, “Widening Circles” in her interview, and I thought it was so lovely that I wanted to share it here:


Widening Circles

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

Book of Hours, I 2


There’s a recording of Joanna Macy reading the poem here. I always think listening to a poem is a treat, but what is particularly lovely about this recording is that Macy recites the poem slightly differently than it’s written here. Those little changes bring out different notes of nuance in the meaning and make you feel a little differently about those moments. I hope you enjoy it.

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