BOOKS: Suite Words' Quiet Appeal; Turning Point by Rainer Maria Rilke, Anvil Press, Pounds 8.95

The Birmingham Post (England), December 6, 2003 | Go to article overview

BOOKS: Suite Words' Quiet Appeal; Turning Point by Rainer Maria Rilke, Anvil Press, Pounds 8.95


Byline: Reviewed by Richard Edmonds

While Rilke (1875-1926) has possibly been more widely translated into English than any other German poet, the emphasis has always been on his major works, such as The Letters to Merline and the Letters to Cezanne, the Duino Elegies and the Sonnets to Orpheus.

But occasionally along comes a suite of poems that do not easily fit into the more familiar corpus and so Turning-Point is a one-off, falling outside Rilke's wish to present a definite statement.

This edition of Rilke's lesser known work has distinguished critic Michael Hamburger writing an introduction that argues that the poems in Turning-Point are by no means inferior to the better known collections.

There was much unprinted work lying fallow in Rilke's files between the second volume of his New Poems (published 1908) and the Duino Elegies (1922). Rilke, according to Hamburger in a marvellously satisfying and perceptive introduction, obviously had his own reasons for underrating the miscellaneous poems that fell unattended between these two years of publication. …

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