Lost & found

May 25, 2019

Rilke warned young poets against large sweeping topics, since those are the most difficult and demand great artistic maturity. He counselled them to write about what they see around them, how they live each day, what’s been lost, what’s been found. He encouraged them to bring the things that surround us into their art, images from dreams, remembered objects. ‘If daily life seems impoverished to you,’ he wrote, ‘don’t blame life. You yourself are to blame. You’re just not enough of a poet to perceive its wealth.’ This advice may seem mundane and dim-witted to you. This is why we called to our defence one of the most esoteric poets in world literature — and just see how he praised so-called ordinary things!

Wislawa Szymborska
Letter to Michal in Nowy Targ
Literary Life
Trans. Clare Cavanagh


February 14, 2019

But today I want Rilke to speak – through me. In the vernacular, this is known as translation. (Germans put it so much better – nachdichten – to pave over the road, over instantaneously vanishing traces.) But translation has another meaning. To translate not just into (i.e., into the Russian language), but across (a river). I translate Rilke into Russian, as he will someday translate me to the other world.

By hand – across the river.

Marina Tsvetaeva
Dark Elderberry Branch
trans. Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine

More Rilke

October 29, 2009

“The longer I live, the more urgent it seems to me to endure and transcribe the whole dictation of existence up to its end, for it might just be the case that only the very last sentence contains that small and possibly inconspicuous word through which everything we had struggled to learn and everything we had failed to understand will be transformed into magnificent sense.”