BOOK REVIEW: Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke [Trans. Vita & Edward Sackville-West]

Duino ElegiesDuino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars Page

Out: February 22, 2022 [In some markets it may be out already.]

This is a reissue of the original English translation of Rilke’s elegies composed on the karst cliffs of northeast Italy in the early 1920’s. The book consists of ten medium-length, angel-laden elegiac poems. [Yes, dude was just that into angels.] The translator’s notes are posted as an epilogue and the volume has a new preface. It should be noted that the translators suggest one think of it as one long elegy in ten parts.

I’m far from qualified to comment on the skill of translation from the perspective of how well it catches the meaning and nuance of the original poems. However, the Sackville-Wests’ words are evocative and impactful in their own right, and I enjoyed and was moved by this collection of poems. [In their notes, the translators say they decided it was most productive to try to artfully paraphrase rather than getting too caught up in strict literal translation.] I’d highly recommend this book for poetry readers.

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POEM: Spanish Flu Elegy [Day 15 NaPoMo: Elegy]

The known world died, made sick with Spanish Flu.
Flu made War look clumsy at dealing Death.
The Dead piled for the corpse cart to come through.
Trash stacked with kin who’d expelled their last breath.
What masters passed in those tens of millions?
Could we’ve faster mastered tech and science?
Might we’ve lost heroes that matched our villains?
Could the good have formed a grand alliance?
They say a forest without any fires
is a place of Death that doesn’t know it yet.
Disease isn’t just some fast-track to the pyre;
it’s a force of nature; an unpayable debt.