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This review is taken from PN Review 231, Volume 43 Number 1, September - October 2016.

Cover of New Poems translated by Len Krisak
Jack HansonInner Vision
New Poems
Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Len Krisak
Camden House
£50 hardback
IF A TRANSLATOR'S task is to bring a poet from one world – linguistic, cultural, historical – into another, is this made easier or more difficult by a poet whose work left both worlds profoundly altered? Rilke, it is hardly necessary to say, is one such poet. His influence is incalculable, though not without its hallmarks, since so much of his energy was devoted to founding a new world, one which arose out of his own inner experience. This was an ongoing, constantly shifting enterprise, a significant stage of which is rendered admirably in Len Krisak’s new bilingual edition of Neue Gedichte (New Poems).

Of course, it is slightly misleading to suggest that Rilke’s world is wholly his own. Deeply entrenched in the Western traditions of philosophy, literature, and religious thought, much of the poet’s early work is an extended meditation on that heritage. The Book of Hours (1905) in particular established his reputation as a formidable religious poet. Yet the God of Rilke’s poetry is not the Christian God, or, at least, not the orthodox one. Rilke sought out the numinous in every facet of life, and his increasingly Nietzschean perspective on the possibilities of Western culture provided new urgency to his attention to things themselves as the source of poetic imagination. This commitment to things was aided no doubt by his employment by Auguste Rodin, not to mention his association with Lou Salome, who, apart from her own accomplishments as a writer and thinker, was perhaps the only woman Nietzsche ever loved. The range ...

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