The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke ; edited and translated by Stephen Mitchell ; with an introduction by Robert Hass

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Other authorsStephen Mitchell (Editor)
Paper Book, ?






New York : Vintage International, 1989, c1982.


The influence and popularity of Rilke's poetry in America have never been greater than they are today, more than fifty years after his death. Rilke is unquestionably the most significant and compelling poet of romantic transformation, of spiritual quest, that the twentieth century has known. His poems of ecstatic identification with the world exert a seemingly endless fascination for contemporary readers. In Stephen Mitchell's versions, many readers feel that they have discovered an English rendering that captures the lyric intensity, fluency, and reach of Rilke's poetry more accurately and convincingly than has ever been done before. Mr. Mitchell is impeccable in his adherence to Rilke's text, to his formal music, and to the complexity of his thought; at the same time, his work has authority and power as poetry in its own right. Few translators of any poet have arrived at the delicate balance of fidelity and originality that Mr. Mitchell has brought off with seeming effortlessness. The generous and unusual selection that the translator has made from Rilke's large body of work has been praised by scholars for the judicious picture it offers of the breadth and depth of Rilke's greatness. The German text is printed facing the translations, and the poems have been extensively annotated with relevant quotations from Rilke's correspondence and other essential information. Noted poet and critic Robert Hass's searching introduction, "Looking for Rilke," discusses the span of Rilke's career and his importance for the American poetic tradition.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Arctic-Stranger
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.
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LibraryThing member syntheticvox
Beautiful annotated translations by Stephen Mitchel. A world-wide favorite for a reason: passion, philosophy, and depth wrapped in beautiful and touching lyricis.
LibraryThing member agricolaoval
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member JimmyChanga
There are not enough stars on Goodreads 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 outinto the Open. Only our eyes are turnedbackward, and surround plant, animal, childlike traps, as they emerge into their freedom.We know what is really out there only fromthe animal's gaze; for we take the very youngchild and force it around, so that it seesobjects--not the Open, which is sodeep in animals' faces. Free from death,We, only, can see death; the free animalhas its decline in back of it, forever,and God in front, and when it moves, it movesalready in eternity, like a fountain.… (more)



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