Caroline's Reviews > Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

Rilke's Book of Hours by Rainer Maria Rilke
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it was amazing
bookshelves: poetry

Whoa. Whoa.

I read a checked-out library copy of this book, but about halfway through I realized that I was going to need to own it. Still working on that. But thanks to Rilke, I finally understand the point of poetry. Don't get me wrong - I've appreciated poetry before, like the imagery it evoked or the cadence it gave or whatever. But THIS. Well, just refer to the first two words of the review.

I found this stuff profound. In almost every poem I found a stanza or thought that would just stop me in my tracks with an "aha!" moment or simply due the sheer beauty of the words. I think this is also the first time I've come upon subject matter that couldn't be adequately expressed except through poetry. Most love poems I've read I find to be rather trite, but these are anything but. The depth of feeling they express is simply incredible.

My first exposure to Rilke's poetry came from a church talk I heard a few years ago. The poem was titled "God Speaks to Each of Us," and after hearing it I thought about it for months afterward. It was this poem that led me to the Book of Hours. It also impressed upon me the difficultly of translating poems. The fact that all of Rilke's poems were originally written German meant there were many variations in English of a single poem in the German. As a result, I had to flip through a number of different editions of the Book of Hours with different translators before finding that the Barrows/Macy translation contained the version of the first Rilke poem I had heard years earlier. Their translation was the best that I found and seems to have been done with an immense amount of thought and care.

Two final thoughts. First, I loved how universally applicable these poems are. They are appropriate readers of any or no faith, a point that Macy and Barrows emphasize in their commentary. Second, I loved Rilke's focus on the idea of ripening. I've never thought of ripening in terms of anything other than fruit, but I think Rilke sees it as one of our reasons for being on earth. I like this idea. I want to ripen.
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Reading Progress

August 31, 2008 – Shelved
June 8, 2010 – Shelved as: poetry
July 1, 2010 – Started Reading
July 6, 2010 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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Melissa Morrow What you said. :)


message 2: by Valerie (new)

Valerie Thanks for your thoughtful review, Caroline! You ha
ve definitely piqued my interest in this author!


message 3: by Yvonne (new) - added it

Yvonne Hinton-Frable Flosman It's 4am and I stumbled onto a quote about the guilty sleeping...a long rabbit-trail on the Internet later, here I am. Wonderful review. You made me want this book.


Joell I had the same experience! I checked it out at the library and realized that I MUST own this book. Thank you for the thoughtful review.


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