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Rainer Maria Rilke: Selected Poems

4.4 of 5 stars 4.40  ·  rating details  ·  8,937 ratings  ·  258 reviews
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Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 22nd 1986 by Routledge (first published January 1st 1938)
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Mar 17, 2008 David rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody
There are times in life when I feel as if I live in a parallel universe. You know the way it goes. The usual precipitating event - everyone else on the planet holds an opinion or belief that seems so outrageous and outlandish to me, we cannot be having the same experience. I've had this feeling all day today.

My current sense of profound alienation was triggered by looking down the list of other people's ratings for this book, the Robert Bly "translation" of selected poems by Rilke. Four-star and
Translated by Stephen Mitchell.

And if the earthly no longer knows your name,
whisper to the silent earth: I'm flowing.
To the flashing water say: I am.
(from Sonnets to Orpheus, II,29)

These poems are so elegant and lovely, but what could else could I have expected after reading Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet last summer? This is intimate, intensely reflective poetry, deeply concerned with the self. I loved his generous yet keen eye, his meditative perspective on everything around or in him; his be
Nov 10, 2007 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who don't know german (though the german's here too, if you do)
Shelves: favorites
Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels'
hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me
suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed
in that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely distains
to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying.
And so I hold myself back and swallow the call-note
of my dark sobbing. Ah, whom can we ever turn to
in our need? Not angels, not humans,
and al
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. ...more
Hi, new favorite poet, where have you been all my life?

I'm cheating with this review, because I'm currently only halfway through this volume, yet I know it's a five-star review. (EDIT: Finished it - everything rocked!) I can blow through a novel in a day, but I can only read a few pages of Rilke at a time, or else the profundity and sheer awesomeness of it all overwhelms me.

I don't know if I've ever encountered a poet like this before. To paraphrase from the back cover, he is poise, power, speed
I have read many of the poems in this collection dozens of times, by a handful of different translators, and I never, ever tire of Rilke. No modern poet goes as far into himself, into "the invisible, unheard center", and returns with such gems, really revelations. Revelatory image succeeds revelatory image. Am I being a bit too grandiose? That's fine, I think Rilke is the greatest poet of the 20th century, and high praise is not praise enough. A pure writer. Mitchell's translations are gorgeous ...more
I have read this edition of Rilke’s poetry several times since 1993, and I am sure that my recent reading will not be my last. Stephen Mitchell has done a good job of editing and translating Rilke’s work, and this bilingual edition would seem ideal for those readers who read German (alas, I do so poorly). Included in the book are poems from several of Rilke’s collections as well as selections from his prose work, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. There are no selections from Letters to a Yo ...more
Achingly beautiful German poetry from the arboreal mists of Central Europe. My German is pitiful and leaves me with no way of knowing how faithful Stephen Mitchell remained to his brilliant source, but I do know that his English renderings are lovely and sublime in and of themselves. Although the famous Duino Elegies, Requiem and Sonnets to Orpheus are ripe with concentrated genius, the entire compendium is a breathtaking achievement, my favorite poetry collection of recent years and, along with ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
It's National Poetry Month (April 2013) and I've been hoarding volumes of poetry all year in preparation. I've read Rilke before, and I'm still surprised at how sometimes a poem can start out with something mundane and end with greater emotional impact. Rilke is a master at this particular method.

When I requested this volume from, I didn't realize it was on cassette tape - luckily I still had an old stereo with a working tape deck lying around. The poems are read by the transl
Feb 09, 2013 Holly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who feel forgotten
Shelves: poetry
I can't comment on the accuracy of this translation of Rilke poetry by Stephen Mitchell or how it compares to others but the English translations alone are beautiful. It contains a selective yet wide sampling of Rilke's many works, making it a good introduction to the poet. After reading many of the poems I've been inspired to seek out both the Book of Hours and his Letters to a Young Poet. My favorite poem at the moment comes from the former:

[I am, O Anxious One]

I am, O Anxious One. Don't you h
This is a book you might need years to prepare for.

Rilke is complex, his images interweave and play off each other. I believe it has something to do with the penchant for puns and hyphenated, conjuncted words that German is prone to.

"Archaic Torso Of Apollo" is one of the most powerful, moving pieces in all of 20th Century poetry.

Rilke is light years beyond you, dear reader, as he is for 90% of all his readers.

But he is accessible in small glimpses if you come correct with an open mind and re
For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror...

When I read that and the second elegy, I seriously got goosebumps all over my body. And some of the poems really blew me away. To be honest, however, so much of it just flew over my head that I need to read it again to even fathom Rilke's depth expressed in these beautiful poems. For me, the most interesting ones were The Book of Hours, The Duino Elegies, and The Sonnets to Orpheus, and it is too bad that Stephen Mitchell didn't translate all
Aug 26, 2008 Yuval rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everybody
I'm not the world's biggest poetry buff, but Rilke's work is more like lyric philosophy, and the depth of ideas and richness of imagery is overwhelming. It's been way too long since reading these, and I've thoroughly loved the re-read over the last few weeks.

Last time I read this, I did not speak German, so this is the first time I was able to assess Stephen Mitchell's translations of the poems from German. They are truly amazing; accurate, graceful, and lovely. I can't imagine any better.
Jun 11, 2008 Andy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Prose prozacs
Anybody who tells you that Germans are a gruff, unromantic bunch never read Rilke. This is the most delicate, romantic poetry I've ever read.
"If you are the dreamer, then I am the dream.
But when you want to wake, I am your wish."
Honorary "dragons" shelving for being just that awesome.

Also, I think I've read all the poems and most of the extra stuff, but I'm not sure if I consider this as "read," yet. I think it's going to stay on the currently-reading shelf until I learn German and French so as to be able to read the pre-translated half (so it's quite possible that this book shall never be "read"). Seriously, Rilke has made me want to learn German and French so I can read his stuff in the original languages (and un
Jun 23, 2008 Peter added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who carefully absorb and reflect on experiences around them
Shelves: poetry, partly-read
I'm racing my way up to page 43 so far (it's been about 5 months). It's funny, his poems are so image intensive, I never really know how to read, say, 20 at one sitting. That said, here's one of the three I read this morning--its images have some real gems:

Spanish Dancer

As on all its sides a kitchen-match darts white
flickering tongues before it bursts into flame:
with the audience around her, quickened, hot,
her dance begins to flicker in the dark room.

(full post)
POEMS by Rainier Maria Rilke
5 stars ☆☆☆☆☆ and numerous lyrical notes ♪♪♪♪♪♪( ´θ`)ノ
(OK, so I love this man! Does it "show?")

“The only way I know to describe the beauty of Rilke's poetry is to say it this way: Imagine God Himself or His choir invisible or a Seraphim Angel breathing soft,

ohhh, with such pure divine tranquility, akin to a whispered, mellifluous lullaby, with all the transcendence that IS the sublime Word Painter Rilke, being sung directly

into your heart, indeed, to the deepest cor
Winston O'Toole

"But because truly being here is so much. Because everything here
apparently needs us, this fleeting world, which in some strange way
keeps calling to us. Us, the most fleeting of all.
Once for each thing. Just once; no more. And we too,
just once. And never again. But to have been
this once, completely, even if only once:
to have been at one with the earth, seems beyond undoing."
Du im Voraus
Verlone Geliebte, Nimmergekimmene,
Nicht weiss ich, welche Tone dir lieb sind.
Nicht mehr versuch ich, dich, wenn das Kommenende wogt,
Zu erkennen. Alle die grossen
Bilder in mir, im Fernen erfahrene Landschaft,
Stadte und Turme und Brucken und un-
Vermutete Wedung der Wege
Und das Gewaltige jener von Gottern
Einst durchwachsenen Lander:
Steigt zur Bedeutung in mir
Deiner, Entgehende, an.

You who never arrived
In my arms, Beloved, who were lost
From the start,
I don't even know what
Keith Michael
Rilke is truly incredible. his style is so vaporous- the images linger and cloud together, broken up by indefinite semicolons and dashes, and the final lines are like cold glass against the cheek. he's overwhelmingly receptive to beauty and intensity in the world; in letters, he wrote to a friend about the hours he spent watching deer at the zoo. i recognized a lot of romantic sublimity in his earlier poems, in the descriptions of potential in the animals' limbs and gazes, the latent power sugge ...more
Very pretty; lyrical; what we mean when we say "poetic," I suppose.

His early poems show he has a great eye, a real knack for observation. He effaces his ego, transforming himself into an empty receptacle for perceptions (a Transparent Eyeball, maybe?). It's a spiritual feat, of the Buddhist ilk. If he doesn't quite succeed in becoming one with the Void, he at least sings the Void's praises.

His later poems showcase his talent for crafting highly complex metaphors. Some float in one ear and out th
[-I read the Albert Ernest Flemming translations published by Routledge.]

At the end of this collection, the epitaph that Rilke chose for himself suggests that he will not be able to be grasped for sure by anyone. Poetry expresses the inexpressible? I am just going to make some notes for myself, whether fair or not.

-Rilke is very good at creating very fine and condensed feelings. Many of the poems concluded in very moving places on a plane in between inner and external experience.

-I thought the
The side by side German/ English text is most welcome and encouragement enough to learn Deutsche. I have read only a few other translations of Rilke and Stephen Mitchell's flows very well, although I cannot speak to how many liberties he takes with the original German. This book contains arguably Rilke's best works: the Duino Elegies, Sonnets to Orpheus, and others that he wrote during different stages of his life. The poems are arranged chronologically, and its fascinating to see his developmen ...more
I see that there's a lot of talk concerning the quality of the translations of these poems. I am not sure I am one to decide whether the translation was good or not because 1. I do not know German; 2. this was my first Rilke, so I am not sure how he is supposed to sound.

In any case, one of the things that I admired greatly about his poetry was his sense of rhythm. These poems are definitely meant to read aloud so you can easily feel their musicality (I admit that I had to re read some lots of ti
Matthew Gallaway
This book is worth fifty stars alone for the opening essay by Robert Hass, which traces the evolution of Rilke from an artist who craves an understanding of the unknown space within him, to his comprehension that this space represents death, and finally to the idea that writing poetry about this space is the life that arises from death. (I'm not really doing it justice, but just to give you an idea.) As for the poems themselves, the translations seem very adept and beautiful to me (not that I ca ...more
There are times when I can't read Rilke; there are times when I can't put him away. His images are always occupying space in my head, though. This collection was given to me by a friend about 10 years ago. Over time, the pages have begun to come loose, but they still bear the notes and highlights of past readings. Re-reading it now, those highlighted passages and dog-eared pages are even more beautiful than I remembered. And I love the Robert Haas introduction, which sweeps you up in Rilke. Bewa ...more
Debbie Robson
The introduction and the notes were excellent but of course it is the Duino Elegies that will haunt me. I feel I really need to read them again and again. They are so layered and challenging.
I would actually like to own my own copy of the Elegies but without any other poems added to the collection. Not sure if they are available by themselves.
I also have liked, for a long time - You Who Never Arrived and hope to read one of his last poems written at the next Poetry at the Pub.
Oh sweet mysteries of life I have found you...over and over again, here.
Dan O'Keefe
I come back to Rilke's poetry fairly often. This is one of the best collections of poems you can find. Typically, I have a hard time dealing with poetry, but Rilke seems to be an exception. His poem about the Spanish dancer is just perfectly tight.
I love this because the translation really nails the purity and depth of the poems. I also enjoyed the history of the poems and where Rilke was in his life during the periods. I'm sure I'll buy this one to read over and over.
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Book reviews 1 9 Dec 10, 2012 04:09AM  
  • Poems of Paul Celan
  • The Collected Poems
  • The Selected Poetry
  • The Collected Poems, 1957-1987
  • View With a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems
  • The Wild Iris
  • The Fact of a Doorframe: Poems Selected and New, 1950-1984
  • The Palm at the End of the Mind: Selected Poems and a Play
  • The Selected Poems
  • Praise
  • The Complete Poems
  • The City in Which I Love You
  • Above the River: The Complete Poems
  • The Dream Songs: Poems
  • The Book of Nightmares
  • The Complete Poems, 1927-1979
  • New and Collected Poems: 1931-2001
  • New and Selected Poems, Vol. 1
Rainer 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 mos
More about Rainer Maria Rilke...
Letters to a Young Poet Duino Elegies The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God Sonnets to Orpheus

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“For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been given to us, the ultimate, the final problem and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.” 672 likes
“Yet, no matter how deeply I go down into myself, my God is dark, and like a webbing made of a hundred roots that drink in silence.” 262 likes
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