An exerpt from the Patti Smith interview I shared the other day on loss and a painting of mine on the same subject..... PAUL HOLDENGRÄBER: And, you know, how important it was to arrive at the greatest amount of silence a city could arrive at. We were talking about loss, and there’s a line, as we slowly wind down, there’s a line in Rilke that I very much love about loss, where he says, “Loss however cruel is powerless against possession, which it completes or even affirms. Loss is in fact nothing else than a second acquisition but now completely interiorized and just as intense.”
PATTI SMITH: Rilke.
PAUL HOLDENGRÄBER: It’s extraordinary, no?
PATTI SMITH: I’m not going to say awesome, because it’s not an awesome enough word. But yes, he’s so beautiful.
PAUL HOLDENGRÄBER: “A second form of acquisition.”
PATTI SMITH: Yes, I believe in that. I know it to be true.
PAUL HOLDENGRÄBER: We carry around our libraries. We carry around our quotations. I think I mean in many ways the reason that M Train moves me so deeply is in part because you are inhabited by words, you are inhabited by sentences, you are inhabited by certain moments, and I think, you know, as I think of it I think of literature of having the highest—and Herzog speaks about—Werner Herzog speaks about literature offering him always consolation in the toughest, hardest moments. He reads, you know, he reads the great Greek writers because they will—Thucydides, he will offer him in some form or fashion consolation, when things really get rough we turn to what really matters. When Montaigne lost his son he couldn’t tell his wife that his son had died. Instead he wrote down the letter that Plutarch had written when he lost his son, and he copied it out and sent it to his wife. That was a way in some way of expressing emotion.
Recently—I feel like I must say that because our conversation is inhabited by this. I lost my sister on September 1, and it’s a terrible thing to have to lose one’s sister. It’s even worse in some way to have to tell one’s ninety-seven-year-old father of that loss. After that moment, which was so difficult, literature came back. Not to rescue me, because there is no rescuing and consolation not to flatten the experience, but I thought of a writer who matters to you too so much and I thought of those last lines of The Unnamable, “I can’t go on, I will go on.” And thankfully we have memory and we remember, literally putting our members back together because if we didn’t we might be truly more lost than we already are. Anyway I’m sorry, that was a long moment.
PATTI SMITH: No, it’s lovely to hear you speak. And I think there’s another aspect. We can talk about loss and we can think about our people and we carry our people and can access our people but also even getting down to things even more simply, each person has a life, and our lifes are precious and no matter what we go through in life, what we lose, who we lose, the strifes, the illnesses, and anything, the sorrows, the heartbreaks, we still have our—if we have our life we have the best thing that we’ll ever have and in that way I would quote another great poet, Jimi Hendrix, who said, “Hooray, I wake from yesterday,” and every day when I wake up that’s one of the first lines that comes in my head, I think it’s just “Yes, I have another day, you know, I have another day and whatever comes my way I’m going to be grateful.” I’m going to be grateful, because we don’t have a long time and sometimes some people have longer and some people have shorter, but whatever our fate is we have a little time on this planet and it’s just fantastic to be alive, just.