Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Rilke’s “Prayers of a Young Poet”

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) is best known today for a rather slim volume entitled Letters to a Young Poet. The letters were published only after his death, by the man who had received them, a young military officer-in-training in Austria named Franz Kappus who had discovered his heart was in poetry rather than the military. Rilke was moved enough, perhaps by the similarities in his own life, that he exchanged a series of letters over a period of time.

Published in 1929 in German, and in 1934 (and again in 1945) in English, Rilke’s letters gained serious popularity beginning in the 1980s. Today, they remain almost required reading for anyone considering poetry as a vocation (or avocation). But more people have probably read his letters than his own poetry. A number of good translations and collections have been done, and his poetry is well worth reading.

And now Mark Burrows has translated a group of poems entitled Prayers of a Young Poet, an obvious play on the title of the collected letters. It’s an amazing collection, and Burrows, a scholar of medieval Christianity and poetry editor for the journal Spiritus -- adds new insight and understanding to both Rilke the man and his poetry.

To continue reading, please see my post today at TweetSpeak Poetry.

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