Prayers of a Young Poet

Overview

A ground-breaking volume that presents, for the first time in English, these prayer-poems as Rilke intended them

“This extraordinary early-draft form of some of Rilke’s most famous poems somehow evokes, for me, Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks—it shows the same mix of surety, roughness, genius, and the sense of precipitous creative speed. Rilke’s poetry always reminds us what a direct pondering of intimacy and depth might look like. I am most grateful for these muscular translations and Mark Burrows’ extended ...

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Prayers of a Young Poet

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Overview

A ground-breaking volume that presents, for the first time in English, these prayer-poems as Rilke intended them

“This extraordinary early-draft form of some of Rilke’s most famous poems somehow evokes, for me, Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks—it shows the same mix of surety, roughness, genius, and the sense of precipitous creative speed. Rilke’s poetry always reminds us what a direct pondering of intimacy and depth might look like. I am most grateful for these muscular translations and Mark Burrows’ extended introductory comments, offering entrance to a body of work until now unavailable to English-language readers.”
  —Jane Hirshfield, poet and translator; author most recently of Come, Thief: Poems

 “Prayers of a Young Poet is a hauntingly beautiful book. Mark Burrows’ splendid translation renders the passion and the pathos of the anonymous young monk who sings these love songs to the Lord and somehow speaks our hidden desire. In these pages, Rilke dances in the dark to the tune of his own poems, his reluctant partner the elusive God he woos. The effect is irresistible: an invitation to join in the dance no reader can refuse.” 
—Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, poet and author of Saint Sinatra & Other Poems

 “Rilke’s praying monk begins with the time-honored conventions of his religious tradition, then moves beyond them to the dark silences of forest and dream where God waits to be discovered anew. In these startling poems brought to us in Mark Burrows’ lucid translation, metaphor gives way to metaphor, as each verbal foray into the divine courts a mystery that can be approached but neither comprehended nor defined.”
—Peter S. Hawkins, Professor of Religion and Literature, Yale Divinity School

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

In the spring of 1899, the 23-year-old German poet Rainer Maria Rilke arrived in Moscow for the first time, to be overwhelmed by the Orthodox Ester. The following autumn, now living in Berlin and assuming the literary identity of a Russian monk, he poured out the 67 poems that the American academic Mark Burrows as the Prayers of a Young Poet. Rilke wrote furiously up to nine poems a day, or night, between 20 September and 14 October. His work echoed the identity of the solitary priest he represented, writing in a verse letter to his superior:
I look out across the land; I listen, pray, read, and sometimes paint an icon of St. Nicholas or the holiest one in in the Stoglav style — more than this I can’t manage.
In his search for God, in his celebration of the created and creative world, and through his negotiations between art and faith, Rilke represents the aspirations of many poets looking beyond horizons ruled by humanity.
Much of Rilke’s work emerges from exploratory darkness: “I believe in nights.” Weather conditions theology. The poet-monk brings to his cell experiences from the storms lashing the surrounding forest as metaphors for his wrestling matches with religious possibilities. He takes ideas from the books he reads, and meditates on them in the anguished woods. He struggles to find God, but also luxuriates in his closeness.
Christ appears fleetingly, as “Your Son” in one poem, and through “the wondrous play of powers …rising in the treetops like a resurrection” in another. The monk, like Rilke, remembers a great church in Moscow where “the dome is full of Your Son,/ binding the whole church as one …”
This anonymous “least among monks, an Apostle,” seeks to label God by his discerned qualities: “You stone … You wind … Your dark being.” By the end of the book, the monk is welcoming another “superior,” a survivor among the blind singers who wandered among the Ukrainian poor. The monk’s presence reminds him of all the songs he has forgotten. So Rilke adds a postscript of hope to the holy search of his adopted pilgrim.
—Martyn Halsall, Church Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781612616414
  • Publisher: Paraclete Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2015
  • Pages: 112

Meet the Author

Mark S. Burrows is a scholar of medieval Christianity with particular interests in mysticism and poetry.  During the last quarter century he taught in several graduate schools of theology in the United States and Germany, and is widely acknowledged for his work in spirituality and the arts.  The author of many scholarly works exploring Christianity from Late Antiquity to the dawn of modernity, he currently serves as poetry editor for the journal Spiritus.  This is his first volume of modern German translation.  He lives in New Mexico and Germany.

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