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Selected Poems
Narrated by: Stephen Mitchell
Length: 1 hr and 55 mins

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Publisher's Summary

Rainer Maria Rilke has been called the most significant and compelling poet of spiritual experience of the 20th century. His exploration of the struggle between life and art and the supremacy of divine love over personal love has touched the hearts of men and women everywhere. The poems in this reading are from the selected poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, edited and translated by Stephen Mitchell. Also featured are new translations made exclusively for this program.

©1980, 1981, 1982, 1987 Stephen Mitchell (P)1988, 2017 Audio Literature/Phoenix Books

Critic Reviews

"Perhaps the most beautiful group of poetic translations this century has produced." ( The Chicago Times)

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-12-19

who could write so well

there is simply no higher level from what is presented with this, it's sad that there isn't more available on audible.

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  • Andre
  • 12-11-19

Beautifully Translated and Read

"Rilke: Selected Poems" is beautifully translated and read by Stephen Mitchell. He knows these poems, loves these poems, imbues them with emotion and spirit as if Rilke was reading them himself. Among the many things I enjoy about this selection are the language, imagery, metaphor, and simile. An example of this is "Poem 15", otherwise titled as "Spanish Dancer." Here Rilke uses the metaphor of fire to describe a flamenco dancer:

"One upward glance and she ignites her hair
and, whirling faster and faster, fans her dress
into passionate flames, till it becomes a furnace
from which, like startled rattlesnakes, the long
naked arms uncoil, aroused and clicking."

Rilke's poetry is visual and emotional. He can be somber, elegiac, exalting, all with a keen eye and ear for language. He can even be funny as in the "Poem 53: Four Sketches" poem "The Tangerine Eater" in which he describes the citrus as the "rabbit of the fruit world." He ranges in subjects from the West to the East. I was surprised to find "Poem 22: Buddha in Glory" in the same collection as "Poem 25: Ariel--After Reading Shakespeare's 'Tempest.'"

For pure drama I enjoyed most his retelling of a classic Greek myth. "Poem 17: Orpheus, Eurydice, Hermes." He tells it in such a way that I feel like I am right there in the tunnel leading out of Hades as Orpheus, warned not to look back, walks ahead of his beloved dead Eurydice. When he does look back and Hermes takes her back to Hades, you feel the tragedy of the lovers separated by death. So forgetful of life Eurydice was, that when Hermes tells her they must return because Orpheus looked back, she says "Who?"

The poetry, translation, and reading is among the most excellent I have encountered for poetry.

The one drawback is that the audio recording does not list poems by title, but uses numbers and time, such as "Poem 2 01:12" and "Poem 19 01:30." This makes it impossible to find poems by titles and relisten to favorites. I got around this deficit, by writing down the title of each poem as I heard it. Doing this, I got to know Rilke's poems in a way I would not have if I had not written anything down.

Other than that, this is a beautifully translated and read book.