The Inner Sky is a new selection of poems and prose by the great poet Rainer Maria Rilke, set with the original text and a facing page translation, and including more than a dozen works that have never before appeared in English. The translations, by the NEA and PEN-award-winning author and translator Damion Searls, are lively, moving, and appealing, and they give a new voice for Rilke in English: mystical but concrete, like Emily Dickinson or Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Searls’s selection of texts clusters around a handful of related images and ideas—birds and trees, giving and receiving, working and waiting, girlhood and gardens—and presents a coherent vision of how we relate to the outer world and inner world of the imagination. Scholars and students of Rilke will benefit from the German and French originals opposite the translations, and two full indices of English and original titles and first lines. An annotated chronology and the translator’s afterword complete this rich new volume, a necessary addition to even the most complete Rilke library, and the perfect introduction for those just getting to know this perennial master.
Translating Rilke means entering quite an established literary tradition, one that is not lost on translator Damion Searls. Searls dedicates The Inner Sky to poet Anne Carson and previous Rilke translators and well-known literati Stephen Mitchell and Edward Snow. Winner of PEN and Fulbright awards, Searls endeavors to translate with “vigor and mysterious simplicity”; his rendering is as unconventional as it is enjoyable. His English, as he describes it in the collection’s thoughtful afterword, highlights its Germanic ties to Rilke’s “tongue-twistingly assonant” original language, oftentimes with an unusual twist in the English. No matter their level of familiarity with Rilke, The Inner Sky belongs on the bookshelf of any literature lover, thanks largely to Searls’ deft translation and grouping of Rilke’s work. This nontraditional collection predates prose poetry and short-short fiction, yet speaks to these contemporary styles of new craft.
—Rachel Mennies, ForeWord Magazine
Damion Searls has contributed thrilling new translations of this most familiar poet that show Rilke’s thought in its rawest form. A must-read for Rilke fans, The Inner Sky will deepen the English-speaking world’s perception of the man behind the well-wrought verses.
—Stephan Delbos, The Prague Post
[A] superb bilingual edition. An extraordinary anthology. . . . The Inner Sky is highly recommended especially for college library literature collections.
—The Midwest Book Review
The Inner Sky is a gift, and a tantalizing summons into the inner Rilke, ‘one last listening in / on the lost world we once lived within.
—World Literature Today