A Journey with Rainer Maria Rilke

Discovering Wellsprings of Beauty and Justice


This weekend workshop offers immersion in Rilke’s poetry and approach to life from his early Book of Hours, Love Poems to God through his Sonnets to Orpheus of his late years. Joanna and Anita, co-translators of Rilke’s poetry, will illustrate how Rilke has informed their lives and their work in deep ecology, ecopsychology, and issues of global justice, especially in times of darkness and danger. Our explorations will be enriched by music, movement, and exercises in personal writing.

Learning Objectives

Participants can expect to obtain:

  • an overview of Rilke’s life and his most formative adventures and relationships;
  • an understanding of the extent to which Rilke departed from received religion and expressed a spirituality grounding the sacred in the natural world;
  • an appreciation of Rilke’s often overlooked passion for social justice;
  • a renewed sense of their own vigorous response to the wonder of being alive.


Opening session Friday night: Readings and stories from Rilke’s life by Joanna and Anita.

Saturday morning and afternoon sessions: Discussion and readings alternating with writing exercises indoors and outdoors.

Saturday evening: Mid-summer night’s ritual: “Flare up like flame and make big shadows I can move in.”

Sunday: A collaborative service weaving a tapestry of Rilke’s evocations of the sacred, including writing, sharing, and experiential work outdoors. The weekend will end with a discussion on nurturing our own creativity as we return to our lives.

The Sunday afternoon session will end by 4:00 pm.

Required Reading

Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, trans. by A. Barrows and J. Macy

In Praise of Mortality: Selections from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. by A. Barrows and J. Macy, In Praise of Mortality: Selections from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus

Letters to a Young Poet, R. M. Rilke

Optional Additional Reading

The Secret Life of Nature: Living in Harmony with the Hidden World of Nature Spirits from Fairies to Quarks. (New Directions, trans. G. Craig Houston)

A Ringing Glass, Donald Prater (good biography of Rilke.)

Dates: June 22—24, 2012

Venue: St. Brigid’s Villa, Ignatius Jesuit Center, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Faculty: Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows

Note: Wisdom University is partnering with alumnus Barbara Susan Booth’s Sacred Wisdom Centre in Guelph, Ontario.

Faculty Bios

Joanna Macy

Eco-philosopher Joanna Macy PhD, is a scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. A respected voice in the movements for peace, justice, and ecology, she interweaves her scholarship with five decades of activism. As the root teacher of the Work That Reconnects, she has created a ground-breaking theoretical framework for personal and social change, as well as a powerful workshop methodology for its application. Her work helps people transform despair and apathy, in the face of overwhelming social and ecological crises, into constructive, collaborative action. It brings a new way of seeing the world, as our larger living body, freeing us from the assumptions and attitudes that now threaten the continuity of life on Earth. She brings this passion for life to her exquisite translations of Rainer Maria Rilke with her co-translator Anita Barrows.

Anita Barrows

Anita Barrows PhD is a poet, translator, and child psychologist who identifies herself “as part of a growing movement to shift the paradigm of a bounded, isolated self toward a vision of the self that is permeable, interconnected not only with other human selves but with all living beings and processes.” Her clinical orientation, founded in Jungian and object relations theoretical approaches, is deeply informed by an ecosystems worldview, where the individual is understood in a relational, societal, and environmental context. Her published works include the award-winning collection of poetry The Road Past the View and (with Joanna Macy) Rilke’s Book of Hours, Riverhead Books, 1996; In Praise of Mortality, Riverhead Books, 2004; A Year with Rilke, Harper Collins, 2009.