A few years back a friend presented me with a poetry collection titled The Book of Images written by Rainer Marie Rilke and translated by Edward Snow. Being mostly unacquainted with poetry at this time, I opened the pages with trepidation. I read a few of my friend’s favorite poems in the collection and gained a lasting appreciation for Rilke’s work.
Rilke uses clear language to softly make the readers aware of a heavy point. Rilke allows the imagination and mind to play with the underlying meaning of the poem while also providing clear pictures to hook the reader.
This edition in particular is also a bilingual edition. When the book is open to any of the poetry, the left page contains the original German poetry and the right page contains the English translation by Edward Snow. Though I know practically no German, I find it interesting to see the careful work of translation and the choices that were made. I haven’t studied the other translations of Rilke’s poetry, but from my understanding it appears that Snow chose to translate line by line to keep the original form of the poem, but however, some of the rhyme of the poetry is lost to English readers.
This collection encompasses much of Rilke’s poetry, so that readers can experience a wide variety of his poetic styles. I look forward to continuing to read through the collection to encounter the many different types.
So far, my absolute favorite poem of Rilke’s is “Autumn.” I wanted to link it to this page, but a quick search made me realize that numerous translations of this one poem exist, and I also was unable to find this translation by Edward Snow that I prefer. So, whether you’re familiar with his work or not, I urge you to buy this exact book or borrow it from your local library. Read “Autumn” and then read some others that catch your eye.
What are your favorite poems by Rainer Maria Rilke?
What translation/collection do you prefer?
What poets do you think are similar to Rilke?