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The Poetry of Rilke

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For the past twenty-five years, North Point Press has been working with Edward Snow, “Rilke’s best contemporary translator” (Brian Phillips, The New Republic), to bring into English Rilke’s major poetic works. The Poetry of Rilke—the single most comprehensive volume of Rilke’s German poetry ever to be published in English—is the culmination of this effort. With more than t For the past twenty-five years, North Point Press has been working with Edward Snow, “Rilke’s best contemporary translator” (Brian Phillips, The New Republic), to bring into English Rilke’s major poetic works. The Poetry of Rilke—the single most comprehensive volume of Rilke’s German poetry ever to be published in English—is the culmination of this effort. With more than two hundred and fifty selected poems by Rilke, including complete translations of the Sonnets to Orpheus and the Duino Elegies, The Poetry of Rilke spans the arc of Rilke’s work, from the breakthrough poems of The Book of Hours to the visionary masterpieces written only weeks before his death. This landmark bilingual edition also contains all of Snow’s commentaries on Rilke, as well as an important new introduction by the award-winning poet Adam Zagajewski. The Poetry of Rilke will stand as the authoritative single-volume translation of Rilke into English for years to come.


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For the past twenty-five years, North Point Press has been working with Edward Snow, “Rilke’s best contemporary translator” (Brian Phillips, The New Republic), to bring into English Rilke’s major poetic works. The Poetry of Rilke—the single most comprehensive volume of Rilke’s German poetry ever to be published in English—is the culmination of this effort. With more than t For the past twenty-five years, North Point Press has been working with Edward Snow, “Rilke’s best contemporary translator” (Brian Phillips, The New Republic), to bring into English Rilke’s major poetic works. The Poetry of Rilke—the single most comprehensive volume of Rilke’s German poetry ever to be published in English—is the culmination of this effort. With more than two hundred and fifty selected poems by Rilke, including complete translations of the Sonnets to Orpheus and the Duino Elegies, The Poetry of Rilke spans the arc of Rilke’s work, from the breakthrough poems of The Book of Hours to the visionary masterpieces written only weeks before his death. This landmark bilingual edition also contains all of Snow’s commentaries on Rilke, as well as an important new introduction by the award-winning poet Adam Zagajewski. The Poetry of Rilke will stand as the authoritative single-volume translation of Rilke into English for years to come.

30 review for The Poetry of Rilke

  1. 4 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    Looking up from my book, from the close countable lines into the finished-full night outside: how in starry measure my packed feelings scatter, as though a bouquet of wildflowers were being untied… One needs only to thumb through any book of Rilke’s poetry for a mere minute to find a line or stanza that will captivate their heart and mind. Considered by many to be the preeminent German language poet, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 – 1926) has left us with a dazzling collection of poetry and prose that can Looking up from my book, from the close countable lines into the finished-full night outside: how in starry measure my packed feelings scatter, as though a bouquet of wildflowers were being untied… One needs only to thumb through any book of Rilke’s poetry for a mere minute to find a line or stanza that will captivate their heart and mind. Considered by many to be the preeminent German language poet, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 – 1926) has left us with a dazzling collection of poetry and prose that can make anyone believe in the power and glory of language. Rose, oh pure contradiction, joy of being No-one's sleep under so many lids. -Rilke’s epitaph I decided to investigate Rilke after his Duino Elegies were so highly praised and alluded to in Pynchon’s Gravity's Rainbow, particularly the eerie 8th Elegy. Ludwig Wittgenstein was another to openly admire Rilke in his writings, and the novel Wittgenstein’s Mistress contained a wealth of facts about the poet. With so many references to him in such a short span of time, how could I not own the complete collection of his poetry? After spending the summer reading through the great Wittgenstein investigating the deficiencies of language, Rilke illuminates the potency and remarkable versatility of language. Rilke explores the human heart and extracts our emotions into perfectly crafted imagery. Roses, angels and the heavens appear throughout the majority of his work, yet each time appearing fresh and fulfilling. A major selling point for this edition is that it includes a vast assortment of his body of work, including the full text of his most famous Duino Elegies and his Sonnets To Orpheus. I can’t speak any more highly of this poet, as nothing I can say will do him the justice his poetry will. I simply recommend this to anyone with even the slightest interest in poetry. Within the lines of his poems, you will find images and metaphor that will take your breath away. 5/5 -My life is not this steeply sloping hour, in which you see me hurrying. Much stands behind me; I stand before it like a tree; I am only one of my many mouths, and at that, the one that will be still the soonest. I am the rest between two notes, which are somehow always in discord because Death’s note wants to climb over— but in the dark interval, reconciled, they stay there trembling. And the song goes on, beautiful. Love Song How should I keep my soul from touching yours? How shall I lift it up beyond you to other things? Ah, I would gladly hide it in darkness with something lost in some silent foreign place that doesn’t tremble when your deeps stir. Yet whatever touches you and me blends us together the way a bow’s stroke draws one voice from two strings. Across what instrument are we stretched taut? And what player holds us in his hand? O sweet song. Falling Stars Do you still remember: falling stars, How they leapt slantwise through the sky Like horses over suddenly held-out hurdles Of our wishes – did we have so many? - For stars, innumerable, leapt everywhere; Almost every gaze upward became Wedded to the swift hazard of their play, And our heart felt like a single thing Beneath that vast disintegration of their brilliance- And was whole, as if it would survive them! -Again and agan, even though we know love’s landscape and the little churchyard with its lamenting names and the terrible reticent gorge in which the others end: again and again the two of us walk out together under the ancient trees, lay ourselves down again and again among the flowers, and look up into the sky. Autumn Day Lord: it is time. The summer was immense. Lay your long shadows on the sundials, and on the meadows let the winds go free. Command the last fruits to be full; give them just two more southern days, urge them on to completion and chase the last sweetness into the heavy wine. Who has no house now, will never build one. Who is alone now, will long remain so, will stay awake, read, write long letters and will wander restlessly up and down the tree-lines streets, when the leaves are drifting. The Lovers See how in their veins all becomes spirit: into each other they mature and grow. Like axles, their forms tremblingly orbit, round which it whirls, bewitching and aglow. Thirsters, and they receive drink, watchers, and see: they receive sight. Let them into one another sink so as to endure each other outright Ignorant Before the Heavens of my Life Ignorant before the heavens of my life, I stand and gaze in wonder. Oh the vastness of the stars. Their rising and descent. How still. As if I didn't exist. Do I have any share in this? Have I somehow dispensed with their pure effect? Does my blood's ebb and flow change with their changes? Let me put aside every desire, every relationship except this one, so that my heart grows used to its farthest spaces. Better that it live fully aware, in the terror of its stars, than as if protected, soothed by what is near.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Margaryta

    If after finishing “Letter to a Young Poet” I was sure I knew what Rilke was talking about and thought him to be a wise man, then after reading his poems I found myself a bit on the fence. His style was, at times, quite heavy and quite enamoured with its own wording and ideas, going off on mini tangents and personal conversations that were difficult to follow. There were some poems however that were absolutely beautiful, from start to finish. Whether they were one of the shorter ones or a not, s If after finishing “Letter to a Young Poet” I was sure I knew what Rilke was talking about and thought him to be a wise man, then after reading his poems I found myself a bit on the fence. His style was, at times, quite heavy and quite enamoured with its own wording and ideas, going off on mini tangents and personal conversations that were difficult to follow. There were some poems however that were absolutely beautiful, from start to finish. Whether they were one of the shorter ones or a not, some of Rilke’s poems were moving and enchanting. I found myself not a big fan of his more “traditional” works, poems that has a lot of Biblical/religious themes, or which followed the third-person general/sweeping kind of tone. His work takes some warming up to as well as several reads in order for the full scope of his talent to be appreciated. There is certainly something enjoyable in his poems, even if it was hard to read more than a few at a time before getting antsy.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Beth J

    The poems I don't love are usually ones I don't 'get'. The poems I love are among the most exquisite I've ever read. Astonishingly beautiful.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rolland Kacsoh

    What a beautiful way to learn the most esoteric but expressive German vocabulary! Original German and English translation side-by-side. The translations seem to capture the essential but of course the intricate rhyme and meter are lost (better than the reverse, of course, which would be perversion). And what infinite subtlety Rilke weaves in this constant communion with the holiest of loves for Love itself. A true celebration of humanity! Each one has the depth of insight of any letter to FXK, e What a beautiful way to learn the most esoteric but expressive German vocabulary! Original German and English translation side-by-side. The translations seem to capture the essential but of course the intricate rhyme and meter are lost (better than the reverse, of course, which would be perversion). And what infinite subtlety Rilke weaves in this constant communion with the holiest of loves for Love itself. A true celebration of humanity! Each one has the depth of insight of any letter to FXK, except each is artfully dense. Rilke sets for himself such difficult obstacles in complex rhyme schemes and meter but then easily weaves around them with heart-wrenching and soulful montages of feeling and glorious imagery. Can't recommend Rilke's poetry highly enough and in particular this translation.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sheri-lee

    This review is more for me than for others. I always wonder at poets. When I write poetry, it's whatever comes to my mind at first draft. It's not good poetry. But I also don't know how to make it better. Poetry for me is a rawness expressed. If I play with it, it's worse. So, I wonder at poets. How long did Rilke think on each of these? How many drafts, changes, trials? No matter the poet's investment, reading poetry always comes across as rawness to me. Rawness in a good way -- it comes to me This review is more for me than for others. I always wonder at poets. When I write poetry, it's whatever comes to my mind at first draft. It's not good poetry. But I also don't know how to make it better. Poetry for me is a rawness expressed. If I play with it, it's worse. So, I wonder at poets. How long did Rilke think on each of these? How many drafts, changes, trials? No matter the poet's investment, reading poetry always comes across as rawness to me. Rawness in a good way -- it comes to me as their genius, this innate ability to bring all of poetic style, form, and devices to this seemingly raw product. Is it because that's how I 'write'? Perhaps it's my individual connection forced upon a poet. So Rilke's poetry is beauty in all it's faces. I can't quote all I would like to here. There are not enough characters allowed.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    This is not a review, as I didn't really read it yet, not really. It's not fair! I need to learn German. Now. I am now thoroughly convinced that my next language is German as opposed to ancient Greek. A few pages in, I thought, Well this is very very nice English. But this is English! And the original is German. How do you even attempt to translate poetry?? There are subtleties in diction, meter, etc. that just do not get conveyed in translation. For example, the Aeneid. I'm sure Vergil's work is This is not a review, as I didn't really read it yet, not really. It's not fair! I need to learn German. Now. I am now thoroughly convinced that my next language is German as opposed to ancient Greek. A few pages in, I thought, Well this is very very nice English. But this is English! And the original is German. How do you even attempt to translate poetry?? There are subtleties in diction, meter, etc. that just do not get conveyed in translation. For example, the Aeneid. I'm sure Vergil's work is great and wonderful; in translation, you only get the gist, not the poetry. Arguably, similar points can be made for stories, and this is true -- I would love to read any work in the original language. Unfortunately, I cannot. In short -- time to learn German. Somehow.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paloma

    God I love Rilke Every time I read rilke I'm looking for that poem, the one that grabs me with a set of dirty hooks and sways me in its rhythm. God I love Rilke "I would like to sing someone to sleep, to sit beside someone and be there. I would like to rock you and sing softly and go with you to and from sleep. I would like to be the one in the house who knew: The night was cold. And I would like to listen in and listen out into you, into the world, into the woods. The clocks shout to one another striking God I love Rilke Every time I read rilke I'm looking for that poem, the one that grabs me with a set of dirty hooks and sways me in its rhythm. God I love Rilke "I would like to sing someone to sleep, to sit beside someone and be there. I would like to rock you and sing softly and go with you to and from sleep. I would like to be the one in the house who knew: The night was cold. And I would like to listen in and listen out into you, into the world, into the woods. The clocks shout to one another striking, and one sees to the bottom of time. And down below one last, strange man walks by and rouses a strange dog. And after that comes silence. I have laid my eyes upon you wide; and they hold you gently and let you go when something stirs in the dark."

  8. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    It is tempting, as William H. Gass writes in Reading Rilke (Basic Books), to organize Rainer Maria Rilke’s life story around the several themes that obsessed and stalked him, particularly the image of the Rose. As it was for his contemporary Yeats, and many poets before and after them both, roses were the source and object of many of Rilke’s most brilliant poems and metaphors, including one of his finest lyric works, “The Bowl of Roses.” However, to think of Rilke's life in terms of his own myth It is tempting, as William H. Gass writes in Reading Rilke (Basic Books), to organize Rainer Maria Rilke’s life story around the several themes that obsessed and stalked him, particularly the image of the Rose. As it was for his contemporary Yeats, and many poets before and after them both, roses were the source and object of many of Rilke’s most brilliant poems and metaphors, including one of his finest lyric works, “The Bowl of Roses.” However, to think of Rilke's life in terms of his own mythologies is to fall into the trap of choosing aesthetics over facts, gloss over content. Read more at: http://criticalflame.org/verse/1109_p...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    What does "currently reading" mean re: a book of poetry? Am I going to read this through like a novel? It would be interesting to try. I have been studying a poem or two a day from this book for the last week or so. I am enjoying the side-by-side German and English, even though I don't speak German at all. I am excited by the world "weltraum" which is translated as "WorldSpace." I read Letters to a Young Poet a long time ago. In a media-dominated contemporary world in which cliches are spreading What does "currently reading" mean re: a book of poetry? Am I going to read this through like a novel? It would be interesting to try. I have been studying a poem or two a day from this book for the last week or so. I am enjoying the side-by-side German and English, even though I don't speak German at all. I am excited by the world "weltraum" which is translated as "WorldSpace." I read Letters to a Young Poet a long time ago. In a media-dominated contemporary world in which cliches are spreading like mold, it's exciting to read a writer who knows language deeply and speaks in a unique tongue.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    Bilingual edition. Translation by E. Snow The only regret I have for not being determined enough and learn German beyond a beginner's level is that I will never be able to read Rilke in original. So, being told Snow's translation is the best English translation ...I searched for it specifically. I am glad for the advice as it not just a solid translation but poetry as well. The kind of translation that balances from and content in accord with the original. Plus it does have the benefit of enclosi Bilingual edition. Translation by E. Snow The only regret I have for not being determined enough and learn German beyond a beginner's level is that I will never be able to read Rilke in original. So, being told Snow's translation is the best English translation ...I searched for it specifically. I am glad for the advice as it not just a solid translation but poetry as well. The kind of translation that balances from and content in accord with the original. Plus it does have the benefit of enclosing the original for comparison or at least to give one a good sense of the original flow of spoken word.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alex Flores

    Rilke makes me wish I knew German! He writes about grief and love and God and humanity (four of my favorite things to think about) with such eloquence and insight. He's got a kind of sadness about his work too, but it's not completely pervasive. Which is good. Poets get like that sometimes, all sadness, not enough upward-looking-ness (I know that's not a word). At any rate, this is a good compilation of work from one of my favorite poets, and I'd highly recommend it and him to anyone interested Rilke makes me wish I knew German! He writes about grief and love and God and humanity (four of my favorite things to think about) with such eloquence and insight. He's got a kind of sadness about his work too, but it's not completely pervasive. Which is good. Poets get like that sometimes, all sadness, not enough upward-looking-ness (I know that's not a word). At any rate, this is a good compilation of work from one of my favorite poets, and I'd highly recommend it and him to anyone interested in the above mentioned subjects.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Christian Patterson

    Great collection, and probably the best translations I've read. Snow translates close to the content and is willing to sacrifice the form a lot to do so, and that's what I prefer. But you're still able to instantly be like 'oh, this is a sonnet', even if it's not iambic pentameter with rhymes in translation. Plus, they have the German. My favorite poet.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Doug Burns

    Ich bin Neimand und werde auch Niemand sein. Jetzt bin ich ja zum Sein noch zu klein; aber auch spater. For those who love the sound of Rilke's German, but don't read it well enough to really feel the punch of it, this is an absolutely delicious parallel edition.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Storm

    I think I gave it five stars.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lorraine

    Devastingly beautiful.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nikolai

    Nothing I can say to truly praise the cadence and the moving imagery of this poet, but I can give major kudos to Mr Snow for the best translations I've read of Rilke's work.

  17. 5 out of 5

    pausetowonder

    Five stars for the Edward Snow translation. The Robert Bly and Stephen Mitchell "translations" are rubbish.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Snow's translations have grown to become my favourite Rilke translations and are second to none in my view.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Lee

    Rilke's verses about God and the universe are some of my favorite.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ac Alsup

    I was surprisingly underwhelmed! I need to find some inspiration in older poetry, but Rilke ain't for me.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    Rainier Maria Rilke, on his birthday December 4 Alienation, loneliness, anxiety, and the search for a god who has abandoned us; the existenital themes of Rainier Maria Rilke find an echo in those of Sartre . His poetics of disconnectedness and the lamentation of modernity act as a gateway or interface between the past and the future, in which the possibilities of being human multiply and become strange. Informed by a broad and inclusive curiosity, his lifelong romance with one of Freud's student Rainier Maria Rilke, on his birthday December 4 Alienation, loneliness, anxiety, and the search for a god who has abandoned us; the existenital themes of Rainier Maria Rilke find an echo in those of Sartre . His poetics of disconnectedness and the lamentation of modernity act as a gateway or interface between the past and the future, in which the possibilities of being human multiply and become strange. Informed by a broad and inclusive curiosity, his lifelong romance with one of Freud's students gave him an active understanding of psychoanalysis and shaped his view of the world and the human condition; he also acted as secretary for the sculptor Rodin, met with Tolstoy, studied Nietzsche, was collaboratively engaged with Paul Cezanne's painting; his formative years in Paris are documented in his novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. The Duino Elegies, ten magnificent poems composed throughout his tumultuous years during World War One, begun in 1912 and completed in 1922, are referential to the angels in the paintings of El Greco, but also act as a salvage operation subsuming influences from all over European history in a redemptive effort to reclaim and renew western civilization from the ashes. Sonnets to Orpheus, a revisioning of classical mythology and Biblical allegory as a unified whole, is beyond question a masterpiece and a treasure of our human heritage which should be read by everyone. Also, a richly imagined personal faith which reconnects the disrupted pagan and Christian worlds. His work mirrors that of T.S. Eliot; both enacted vast reimaginations of the past to create new meaning in the shifting contexts of the present, where all was threatened by the chaos and madness of a cannibalizing war. From opposite sides of a death struggle for supremacy that became a war of survival, Eliot and Rilke sought to rescue the values and ideals which lifted us out of depravity and atavistic barbarism and created humanity over thousands of years, and which might again serve to do so, a Quixotic and profoundly conservative quest to restore us to our better natures. Where their nations choose death, they claimed life; and like conjurers the magic of their poetry tipped the balance for us all. So it was that humanity survived its first test of the modern age, through creative reimagination of civilization, as we ever must.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Isabella Kratynski

    I find Rilke's poetry uneven -- that is, some of it resonates with me, some of it doesn't. I much prefer his later uncollected poems, which I would characterize as more spiritual/sensual, than his poems with an identifiable subject. I love this edition -- having the German and English face to face serves to give a good idea of the rhythm in the original. To be honest, I've been dipping in and out this volume for years now, but gave vast sections of it a more concentrated look this summer. I'll com I find Rilke's poetry uneven -- that is, some of it resonates with me, some of it doesn't. I much prefer his later uncollected poems, which I would characterize as more spiritual/sensual, than his poems with an identifiable subject. I love this edition -- having the German and English face to face serves to give a good idea of the rhythm in the original. To be honest, I've been dipping in and out this volume for years now, but gave vast sections of it a more concentrated look this summer. I'll come back to it again.

  23. 4 out of 5

    David Pocock

    Incredible collection of Rilke's poetry. I don't know of a poet who better captures and puts into words the human condition of wrestling with both the knowledge of our mortality and the three A's James Hollis talks about - ambiguity, ambivalence and anxiety.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Priscilla Ferrara

    I'm loving this translation of my favourite poet!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jackie Caldwell

    I don't understand a good chunk of Rilke's work but all of it is beautiful and the parts I do understand I like very much

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ricardo Reyes

    Fantastic. Loved this. Rilke is a poetry dream come to life.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    The best English-language translation that is currently available of Rilke's poetic work

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Some of the poems in this collection were so touching and beautiful while others seemed too lost in words. I think much of his poetry is too old world for me.

  29. 5 out of 5

    eden

    Somerset Maugham says there is no point in reading poetry in translation, and reading Rilke has made me almost agree with him. Of course, I haven't really read Rilke; I've only read Edward Snow's (admittedly beautiful) interpretation of him. The only way I can read Rilke is to learn German, and even then, not having learned it from the cradle, my understanding and feeling will be incomplete. I am saddened by this, but it still drives me to continue teaching myself new languages. And it makes me Somerset Maugham says there is no point in reading poetry in translation, and reading Rilke has made me almost agree with him. Of course, I haven't really read Rilke; I've only read Edward Snow's (admittedly beautiful) interpretation of him. The only way I can read Rilke is to learn German, and even then, not having learned it from the cradle, my understanding and feeling will be incomplete. I am saddened by this, but it still drives me to continue teaching myself new languages. And it makes me appreciate even more the many brilliant poets who write in English.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    No translation is ever perfect, so it is fortunate that so many translations of Rilke exist. Overall, I think Snow's come the closest to getting both the sound and sense of the originals. In addition, he writes very perceptive little introductory essays. Now that Snow's translations are available in one convenient volume (including, at long last, his translations of the Book of Hours), the Mitchell collection finally has a serious rival. As for the poems themselves, . . . what can I say? It's Ri No translation is ever perfect, so it is fortunate that so many translations of Rilke exist. Overall, I think Snow's come the closest to getting both the sound and sense of the originals. In addition, he writes very perceptive little introductory essays. Now that Snow's translations are available in one convenient volume (including, at long last, his translations of the Book of Hours), the Mitchell collection finally has a serious rival. As for the poems themselves, . . . what can I say? It's Rilke. His words nourish the soul.

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