Review: The Poetry of Rilke

Posted 27 October, 2016 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Poetry of Rilke
By: Rainer Maria Rilke
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

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.

Okay, I’m on a bit of a reading spree with Rainer Maria Rilke. I read his only fictional title, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (review), earlier this year and absolutely adored it, and it prompted me to finally check out his poetry. I’m thankful that an edition such as this exists; I always enjoy reading poetry and plays in the bilingual format (the original on the left, the translated English on the right). Sure, I only know like, a handful of words in German, but it’s still cool.

Rilke’s poetry is quite a fascinating body of work. Obviously culture and language plays a role inhis shaping of the words and the imagery he alludes to, but it’s interesting nonetheless how different his poetry is from a lot of the other poetry I’ve read to date. Like the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, he does stir at some thing deeper, more personal. The imagery he evokes much of the time is nature, but I didn’t know until much recently how much of it was also quite spiritual; much of his poetry–even outside of The Book of Hours and the Duino Elegies–harkens to God, asking and praising Him, and pondering on the nature of Life and the world around him.

What’s really exciting about this particular volume is that it contains many of his big works: Duino Elegies, The Book of Hours, Sonnets to Orpheus. You don’t have to go out to pick up each of those titles, just pick this volume up instead. His uncollected poems are also included here, which all together provides an overall picture of Rilke’s evolution as a poet and the content of his work.

I have a few favourites from this collection–“Evening”, “Ninth Elegy”, and “Tenth Elegy”–but there’s a lot of wonderful sentences and passages throughout the volume. I don’t know what else to say about this book, when it comes to poetry it really is something to read for yourself and discover. If you’re interested in checking out Rilke’s poetry, I would strongly recommend doing so, it’s quite different I think 🙂

Rating: ★★★★★

Learn more about the author on Wikipedia || Order a copy from the Book Depository

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