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The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke (1995)

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Other authors: Stephen Mitchell (Translator), Stephen Mitchell (Editor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,84997,645 (4.44)14
"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.
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» See also 14 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Left to my own devices to explore these poems, to find pieces of myself and reflections of truth as I know it, to shape that shared privacy Maurice Blanchot speaks of—"the passionately unfurled space of a mutual conflict between speaker and hearer"—I like Rilke very much.

Reading his own thoughts on his poetry, delving into the minutiae of his philosophies, the rigidity of his experiences of the world, his fixations on death, birds, gods, dogs, women, mirrors, fountains, solitude, art, the proper way to love—I find Rilke tiresome indeed.

It will not impress Rilke scholars or practiced readers of poetry, I'm sure, but I'm choosing to engage these poems in their own right with as little attention paid to Rilke's life and beliefs and peculiarities of logic as possible. Absent the ability to discuss those things directly with Rilke, I would much rather enter into discussion with his works, where at least my voice finds echo and answer. ( )
  slimikin | Mar 27, 2022 |
There are not enough stars on LibraryThing for Rilke. I loved this book, which included a little sampler from each of his books, chronologically, except the Duino Elegies, which was here in its entirety. I read the Duino Elegies first and was hooked, but the others are almost as good. The Sonnets to Orpheus especially are great, and some of his stand alone poems. Also because this was roughly chronological, you can see his progression as a poet, and how he developed his ideas, themes, and writing. He's not one of those writers who repeats the same poem throughout his career. Every book here has a different flavor and feel to it, he seemed to be perpetually striving. Stephen Mitchell's translations are very satisfying. I've read a few other translations on the web, but none approached the ones in this book. If you read Rilke before in another translation, I urge you to give this one a try. In a bad translation, Rilke can seem overly dramatic, overly romantic, or just plain "icky". But rest assured, he is not.

Here was my original review of Duino Elegies (on 9/16/2008):

I just finished this. It's incredible. I can't believe I hadn't read this before. Poets don't write like this anymore. Who dares to tackle the enormity of these themes, the meaning of life, death, god, love, pain? All conveyed in sometimes concrete sometimes abstract language but always avoiding the easy conclusions. There are so many beautiful passages here where he just tips things slightly so that you see them askew & anew.

Then in elegy 9 he almost sounds like Stevens, talking about thing-ness and language.

Just a little taste, here's the opening of Eighth Elegy:


With all its eyes the natural world looks out
into the Open. Only our eyes are turned
backward, and surround plant, animal, child
like traps, as they emerge into their freedom.
We know what is really out there only from
the animal's gaze; for we take the very young
child and force it around, so that it sees
objects--not the Open, which is so
deep in animals' faces. Free from death,
We, only, can see death; the free animal
has its decline in back of it, forever,
and God in front, and when it moves, it moves
already in eternity, like a fountain.
( )
  JimmyChanga | Jul 13, 2010 |
This was the first volume of Rilke I read, and maybe I am blinded by the whole "first love" thing, but I think it is the best translation. There is a good overall selection of his poetry, including those from his most famous works.

If you want a good overview of Rilke's work, and will only read one volume, I would recommend this. If you are looking to start into his poetry, this is a great start.

In short, I don't think you can go wrong if you buy this. ( )
  Arctic-Stranger | Jan 18, 2008 |
Extremely uneven poet. His works range from exasperating religious crap to gems like Book of Images, Sonnets to Orpheus and Duino Elegies. At his best he makes his impact by his extraordinary perceptiveness and his knack for creating a mood, most often of the melancholic and sombre kind. His language is unparallelled in its kind; it sort of caresses our minds like gypsy music or something. Hard to translate though, so Rilke should be read in German if possible. When I have read Rilke for a while I usually start having misgivings about the substance of his poems. I think the best ones are the small observations, the images, that really make things stand out from the background and become visible. He has some philosohical aspirations, like in Sonnets to Orpheus. As a thinker he is not very convincing though, and even in the philosophical poems it is the small observations that are of any value. I must admit the guy annoys me very much, but at the same time he produces so much of great beauty that I'll always come back to him from time to time. ( )
  agricolaoval | May 15, 2007 |
Beautiful annotated translations by Stephen Mitchel. A world-wide favorite for a reason: passion, philosophy, and depth wrapped in beautiful and touching lyricis. ( )
  syntheticvox | Apr 6, 2007 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rilke, Rainer Mariaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, StephenTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, StephenEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cohen, Marc J.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hass, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martinez, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, SusanDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
First words
I am, O Anxious One.
Quotations
If you are the dreamer, I am what you dream. But when you want to wake, I am your wish, and I grow strong with all magnificence and turn myself into a star's vast silence above the strange and distant city, Time.
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Disambiguation notice
Editions edited by Stephen Mitchell (Some German-English, some English only). Do not combine with other selections containing different poems
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"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.

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