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Paperback The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke Book

ISBN: 0679722017

ISBN13: 9780679722014

The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke

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Book Overview

"This miracle of a book, perhaps the most beautiful group of poetic translations this century has ever produced," (Chicago Tribune) should stand as the definitive English language version.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Reading this changed my life

I'll keep it short and simple - what I like about Bly's translation better than any other I have read of Rilke, is that he has zeroed-in on what the poems MEAN. I would agree that sometimes they do not flow perfectly...sometimes the verses leave you feeling like you have run into a brick wall, lyrically. But you know what? It doesn't matter, because there is no possible way to experience the real thing unless you know German. For a person who does not read German, I am very pleased at this presentation of Rilke as a writer, but also his philosophical conquest to verbalize the things he felt inside. I first read this book when I was 17 years old, and it changed my life. I personally won't read any other Rilke translation, this one is the best.

The Translator as a Lense and Filter =b

I haven't read as many different translations of Rilke as I would like and my German is minimal (though improving). That said, I find Bly's translations heartbreakingly beautiful. How much of this is Bly himself and how much is Rilke is, I suppose, what is up for debate. If, studying further translations, I find it necessary to call this book more a co-authorship than a literal translation I don't think that would be any kind of slight on either author. Translation is deeply associated with interpretation. Language and meaning are personal so each translation, quite properly shows as much of the translator as the author. The style that I associate with Rilke - the simplicity and the inexpressable depth - comes through very very clearly in these poems. The flavour of them seems more right to me than in most other translations I have read. I only skimmed a few of the reviews here but if indeed there is a debate raging about the job of a translator some people might enjoy reading Douglas Hofstadter's book Le Ton Beau de Marot. It's an interesting examination of the difficulties and delights of translation (with a focus on poetry) inspired and informed by his work with translators of his better known work, Godel, Escher, Bach. Scholarly bit said, Bly's translations grabbed me the moment I read them and I consider this book one of my most precious possessions. And Bly, I think, gains himself some artistic license (more than he would have otherwise...) by including the German so that a passionate reader with some knowledge of German can evaluate his translations for his or herself. Sorry for the rambliness of this.

My favorite collection of Rilke's verse in English

Over the years I have owned and read a number of translations of Rilke's verse. I find this superb volume translated by Stephen Mitchell to be both the best selection of his poetry and the finest translation. Take nearly any of the poems in this volume and set it beside a competing translation, and the Mitchell version is both more poetic and more in keeping with the spirit of Rilke. This volume collections all of the Duino Elegies, and generous portions of the various collections, including a fair number of the Sonnets to Orpheus. For most, this will be the only edition of Rilke's verse that they will need.These are some great, great poems. Apart from the Duino Elegies, I believe my favorites would include the amazing "Archaic Torso of Apollo," in which the poet becomes so entranced studying the statue that it proclaims to him in closing, "You must change your life." "The Panther" is without any question one of the most haunting poems of the twentieth century, with its building sense of some great revelation, only to end with the expected image plunging into the heart and disappearing. My favorite poem in the collection, however, may be one from the UNCOLLECTED POEMS, the amazing "You Who Never Arrived," in which the poet muses on all the occasions upon which he and his beloved never met (Rilke's belief was that we are destined never to meet our true love), but nevertheless perhaps came tantalizing close. For instance, he walks into a shop from which she has just left, where the "mirrors are still dizzy with your presence." He ends his musings, "Who knows? perhaps the same/bird echoed through both of us/yesterday, separate, in the evening . . . "This is an essential volume for any lover of great poetry. I can't recommend this highly enough.

Too splendid for words ...

"You are not my favorite poet. That implies comparison. You are poetry itself." in a letter from Marina Tseteyeva to Rilke.Since I do not speak German, I can speak neither to the accuracy of translation nor interpretation (realizing that they are separate concepts). But I can tell you that this keeps me coming back for more (so much so I have 2 copies, plus a hardback, which differs slightly in content). It's the sort of book that if I loan it, I'm astonished to get it back. And don't really mind.Mitchell has included in his notes excerpts from diaries and letters which I otherwise would never have had the joy of knowing, nor insght into not only the heart of the poet, but the heart of God as well.Mitchell also has the integrity to refrain from attempting to translate some works which, I believe, he would have otherwise loved to share. His rationale, from the intro to the "Notes" section, follows:"Translating poems into equivalent formal patterns is to some extent a matter of luck, or grace, and this is especially true of rhymed poems. Rilke called rhyme "a goddess of secret and ancient coincidences" and said that "she is very capricious; one cannot summon or foresee her; she comes as happiness comes, hands filled with the achievement that is already in flower." Some of my favorite poems never got beyond a rough draft, because that sweet goddess refused to make even the briefest appearance."This poetry is a love letter to life, no matter what an acedemic might say about the relative merits of the translation/ interpretation. Reading Rilke, I understand why Jung (I think it was Jung) said, "Everywhere I go, I find the poet is there before me." (or words to that effect) Enjoy.

Magnificent sampler of Rilke's poems

Bly chooses poems from a number of Rilke's books, prefacing the poems with a brief background of where Rilke was (physically and emotionally) when he wrote each book. The original German is displayed opposite Bly's translations; you can get a sense of what got "lost in translation" even if, like myself, you don't speak a word of German.Bly's ruthless honesty shines through every page of the book. Though his translations are incredibly luminous, he clearly admits their limits:"...Rilke's elaborate and thoroughgoing labor on sound cannot be conveyed. In English his poems sound colorless. I've tried for ten years to get the last three lines of "October Day" right, with their lonely sound of blowing leaves and their pride in solitude, but I can't do it..."If this fragment doesn't sell the book to you, I don't know what will!
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