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50 years at the cutting edge of poetry publishing

“A meeting point for poets of all latitudes”
— VĂ­ctor Rodríguez Núñez

Rainer Maria Rilke Bohemia / Austria

RAINER MARIA RILKE WAS born into the German speaking
elite of Prague in 1875, and died in Switzerland in 1926.
He was witness to the great political and cultural
revolutions in Europe in the first quarter of the twentieth
century, and in the case of the radical new art emerging
in Paris before the first world war was involved in
reviewing exhibitions and writing articles about the new
artists, as well as developing his own increasingly
individual and virtuoso verse. He was secretary to the
sculptor Rodin for two years, met Picasso and Tolstoy
and many other giants of the artistic and intellectual
community of the time, while also developing an
increasingly devoted readership for his own work. He
lived a semi-nomadic but genteel life, moving round
Europe from hotel to borrowed rooms, from affair to
aristocratic benefactor, always prioritising the promptings
of his art over the demands of commitment to the
conventions of bourgeois relationships. His awareness of
his own calling as a poet, his immersing of himself in the
role to the extent he did – as well as his controversial
deliberations on love, sex, art and religious observation
in both poetry and prose – resulted in a guru-like status
and following in some quarters. The Russian poet Marina
Tsvetaeva's remarked in a letter to him that he is "not a
poet, but the very embodiment of poetry".

Today his reputation is equally as high. His Duino
, completed in the same year as the Waste Land
was published, are landmark expressions of the
complexities of intellect and feeling a human life can
experience. The Sonnets to Orpheus, written at the same
time, read like exhalations after the great in-drawing of
breath the Elegies demanded; delicate, thankful, ecstatic.
The earlier two volumes of New Poems sound a new note
in European poetry with their mix of sensual, observed
scrutiny of Things, and their capturing of the inner
essence of what is being observed. There are over four
hundred poems written in French in the last years of his
life, and hundreds more exploratory and far-reaching
poems Rilke did not publish. Together with his volumes
of letters, in which he himself said much of his creativity
was expressed, and his extraordinary impressionistic
novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, Rilke's poetry
constitutes one of the great literary achievements of any