Written during an astonishing outburst of creativity during a period of only two weeks in February 1922, Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus is one of the great poetic works of the twentieth century. Willis Barnstone brings these striking poems into English with an approach honed through years of work on the philosophy of translation, about which he has written extensively. This dual-language edition allows readers to compare versions face-to-face to get a clear sense of the nuances of the translation. Also included is an extensive introduction from the translator that offers a biographical sketch of Rilke and reflects upon the ever-present tension between the poet’s passion for life, romance, and adventure, and his yearning for the solitude he desperately needed to dedicate himself fully to his art.
“Willis Barnstone has been appointed a special angel to bring ‘the other’ to our attention, to show how it is done. He illuminates the spirit for us and he clarifies the unclarifiable. I think he does this by beating his wings.”—Gerald Stern
“Willis Barnstone’s versions of Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus are daring, passionate, and beautiful. The choices he makes between beauty, song, and literalness serve a cause Rilke would approve. Of all translations of the sonnets, Barnstone’s songs tame the animals while serving Rilke’s great art.”—Stanley Moss, author of A History of Color