Read Translations from the Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke by Rainer Maria Rilke Free Online
Book Title: Translations from the Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke|
The author of the book: Rainer Maria Rilke
Edition: W. W. Norton Company
Date of issue: August 17th 1993
ISBN 13: 9780393310382
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 727 KB
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Reader ratings: 3.8
Read full description of the books:
Poems shift when you aren't reading them; it's hard to imagine rating a poem, much less a book of poetry, much less a book of translations from a German poet who's notoriously hard to pin down. (I'm not even going to talk about the translation issues here, because they're beyond my understanding.) I can't tell you what I think of Rilke, really, because all of these poems - and especially the Book of Pictures, which is my favorite part of this collection - have a way of confusing me.
Any given poem in this collection can make me swoon, and then make me bored, or even angry, when I read it a second time. Sometimes a poem will seem so good that it doesn't even seem like poetry, in the sense that I forget about the language on the page as language, and the structure seems weightless: not somebody setting down a series of lines, but somebody whispering in your ear. Other times I see the cracks, and because these poems - for me - get their power from being seamless, I feel like someone's pulling a trick on me, and I get resentful for having liked them in the first place.
For instance, this stanza:
Again the forest is fragrant
the soaring lark lifts up
aloft with them the sky that to our shoulders was heavy
one still saw the day through the branches, indeed, that it was empty -
but after long, raining afternoons
come the gold-besunned
before which fleeing on far housefronts
all the wounded
windows fearfully beat with wings
I read this yesterday and I let myself get led along with it. I set aside all my problems, or else the problems came later: the ornate language, the romanticism that comes close to cliche, the overfamiliarity of a poem set after a rainstorm. I just let myself think about how it feels when a sky seems heavy and then turns light, and the last image of windows fearfully beating - not "their wings", but "with wings", which is somehow much better - made me put the book down and remember the last time I walked down Lombard Street on the way to the subway and saw all those little colonial windows with electric candles behind the glass.
So then I walked around all day with the idea of the poem in my head, thinking how lucky it was that I had decided to buy some Rilke at the bookstore. Everything smelled better; all the people in their wool coats walking their dogs seemed to have secret purposes. (Look at this, this is terrible, just thinking about it makes me try to write like Rilke, what a terrible thing!) How silly I had been to think I was being a romantic sad-sack or a boring reactionary for picking Rilke off of the shelves. How stupid to even think about grabbing the Ashbery instead.
Now, of course, I've read the poem again, and I think that I was a romantic sad-sack and a boring reactionary to like it, and that I should have gotten the Ashbery instead. The Ashbery wouldn't have made me swoon in such a simple way, probably, but it's intellectually defensible, and it wouldn't have made me embarrassed in the morning.
I mean, Jesus Christ! Fragrant forests? Soaring larks? Gold-besunned? What place do those sorts of adjectives have in my life, or in any of our lives? What was I doing walking around the city and pretending like fake colonial windows were in some way significant? What am I, fourteen years old again? I feel like I just wrote a love letter, slipped it in box of chocolates, and put in on the doorstep of a girl who only like guys that ride motorcycles; now I'm waiting around hitting myself in the face for it.
I don't know if it's the worse or the better part of me that loves these poems. They want you to believe in a presence behind things, in an intensity of life that borders on the religious. They want you to think that there are wings beating behind the windows. But you can't go around all the time like you've just fallen in love; you'd be insane. Sometimes you wake up and you're not in love; you're just you, windows are just windows, and these poems no longer make any sense.
But four stars anyway, because I am a romantic sad-sack, and all big feelings are boring and reactionary.
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Read information about the authorRainer Maria Rilke is considered one of the German language's greatest 20th century poets.
His haunting images tend to focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety — themes that tend to position him as a transitional figure between the traditional and the modernist poets.
He wrote in both verse and a highly lyrical prose. His two most famous verse sequences are the Sonnets to Orpheus and the Duino Elegies; his two most famous prose works are the Letters to a Young Poet and the semi-autobiographical The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.
He also wrote more than 400 poems in French, dedicated to his homeland of choice, the canton of Valais in Switzerland.
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