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Translating Rilke's Poetry


Erik Bendix found his way to Rilke's poetry through the writings of Bert Hellinger,
whose healing of families and reconciliation work between victims and perpetrators
is touching lives and changing hearts around the globe.  Hellinger carries a copy of Rilke's
Sonnets to Orpheus  with him wherever he goes, and draws profound insights from them.
A short essay by Hellinger on the Sonnets (translated here) is what first sent Bendix in search 
of Rilke's poems. He writes: "What I found in Rilke's original German was truly bottomless
and is often written in glorious and delicate flourishes of language, a real marvel of artistry.
Many attempts have been made to translate this work, but they pale next to the original,
sometimes to the point of shocking misrepresentation.  My dissatisfaction with previous
translations is what drove me to see if I could do better.  Once I began, the poems
themselves took me on as their apprentice, and have kept me in that role since."

Rilke wrestled with facing death throughout his life, and chose his own
burial site and epitaph.  Erik Bendix's essay here about Rilke's epitaph
shows how tricky the translation process can be (especially because the
epitaph hinges on a pun).  Rilke himself translated many poems
 (notably the sonnets of Michaelangelo), and wrote luminous
interpretations of the visual art of Cezanne and
Rodin that deserve to be better known.



photo:  Rainer Maria Rilke 
Erik Bendix's poetry     
Rainer Maria Rilke's poetry      
more about Rainer Maria Rilke      
Hellinger on Rilke      
Rilke's Epitaph      
poems by Rainer Maria Rilke      
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