Pure Contradiction: Selected Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke
Bilingual English/ German edition. Translated from the German and introduced by Ian Crockatt.
This bi-lingual selection gathers poems from all periods of Rilke's life and artistic development but, instead of arranging them chronologically, places poems of similar themes or modes of expression close to one another, making bed-fellows of poems rarely seen together. Each poem is to a greater or lesser extent conscious of others, the aim being to illuminate the underlying themes which Rilke said he had arrived at very early in his life. Not that this is straightforward; Rilke's thinking, like his monumental lyrical gift, was subtle, tangential and characterised by what can be termed as 'radical inconclusiveness'.
In his powerful new translation, skilfully shaped into current English, Ian Crockatt succeeds in catching Rilke's blend of crafted sensuality and inward-focused spiritual searching, while his comprehensive introduction and notes to this selection are both informative and enlightening.
Rainer Maria Rilke was described by another great poet, Maria Tsvetaeva as 'not a poet, but the embodiment of poetry'. His work spans the divide between Europe's turn-of-the-century decadence and its post First World War revolutionary modernism, always struggling to develop, to seek and reach beyond itself.