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The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke: Bilingual Edition (English and German Edition) Paperback – March 13, 1989
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Stephen Mitchell offers what are perhaps the most masterful and intimate translations of Rainer Maria Rilke's poetry to date, infusing it with all the power, eloquence, rhythm and lightness of its original voice. Includes the Duino Elegies and The Sonnets to Orpheus.
...translations [that] bring the qualities that I most cherish in the originals into English with new intimacy and authority. Rilke's voice, with it's extraordinary combination of formality, power, speed, and lightness, can be heard in Mr. Mitchell's versions more clearly than in any others. His work is masterful. -- W.S. Merwin
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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.
It's hard to search and find new poetry which speaks to you in the amazon collection. In a bookstore one can browse the various collections and see which is appealing. But there the choices are limited. On the other hand on amazon the choices are infinite.
We cannot speak to the translation of this volume. But what we can add to all of these reviews is this: deep dark poetry which speaks to a sad transfixed existence. A squeezing oxygenless entropic genre. Isolated souls arguing and colliding in looped baneworlds. Weldshmertz at it's multidimensional best. Enigmatic poems of deep sadness.
If that's what you want out of poetry, then this collection shall be satisfying.
Update 9/15/2012: reading poetry daily one reads alot of poetry. Other poets not withstanding Rilke IS poetry. Of the four Rilke poetry collection in my possession this collection would prove to be the best. Best in it's scope of his output, and best in translation.
I am addicted to the Regency poets they play in my head almost daily so it is a delight to have more to
stimulate and enjoy or a more recent vintage. The escape is not so far too go.
I have read a lot of poetry through the years - good, bad, mediocre - and Rilke is rapidly becoming my favorite.
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embarrassing without the...Read more