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Author Biography

Articles & Reviews

Etudes: A Rilke Recital

poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke
translations by
Art Beck

Finalist for the 2021 California Translation in Poetry Award! 

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In his introduction to Etudes: A Rilke Recital, Art Beck notes that “translating poetry is writing poetry, only harder.” But he also views it as an art akin to musical performance. Returning to these pieces by Rilke many times over the years, Beck came to realize that “it wasn’t so much to perfect or polish the English renditions as to listen more closely to the ‘original score.’” In addition to selections from The Book of Images and New Poems, this volume includes the complete Sonnets to Orpheus, which the translator contends are best experienced as a cycle akin to “a wandering piece of music with various crescendos, diminuendos, pauses, and arias.” Those who appreciate Rilke’s lyrical style and mystical underpinnings will find much to admire in these new translations. Those interested in approaches to poetry translation will benefit from the translator’s accompanying commentary discussing how Rilke’s “broad range and multiple personalities” almost require multiple translators and voices.

POETRY / General

ISBN: 978-1-951651-56-5 (print; softcover; perfect bound)

LCCN: 2020948626

Released 12-1-2020

218 pages

Award Citation

Finalist for the 2021 California Translation in Poetry Award! 

Etudes, A Rilke Recital, is the perfect title for Art Beck's rich new collection of Rilke translations since it comes out of his decades long engagement with understanding Rilke from the inside out, beginning in the late 1970s when he first began to explore, scrutinize and translate (as he says in his introduction), to "internalize the poems, the way a pianist's fingers, say, absorb the spontaneity of the score through long repetitive practice." 

Etudes, recitals—Beck's translations capture and bring to life a Rilke aflame with spiritual passion and an emotional urgency that incorporates what seems like the past, present and future existing now for us all in an invisible plane—a Rilke alive for us in the twenty-first century. "Music, after all, can be, and is performed, transposed, adapted and sung in ways the composer never anticipated…but the overriding criterion of judgment (at least in our informal age) is how they work on their own stage, rather than how they work vis-a-vis the composer's score."

In addition to the poems themselves, Beck has also included an insightful ending commentary that illuminates both his own journey and that of Rilkean translation in general. When, in the famous last line of "Archaic Torso of Apollo"—which is most often translated as "You must change your life"—Beck offers us "You must live another life" instead, we feel that Beck himself must have obeyed that command, and the new life he lived is Rilke's.

Author Biography

Art Beck is a poet, essayist, and translator whose work has appeared in book and magazine form since the early 1970s. His Opera Omnia Or, a Duet for Sitar and Trombone, versions of the sixth-century CE North African Roman poet Luxorius (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2013), won the 2013 Northern California Book Award for translated poetry. Mea Roma, a 140-poem “meditative sampling” of Martial’s epigrams, was published by Shearsman Books in 2018, and was also awarded Honorable Mention in the American Literary Translators Association 2018 Cliff Becker Prize. In 2019, his poetic sequence The Insistent Island was published by Magra Books in its annual chapbook series. From 2009 through 2012, Beck was a regular contributor to Rattle, with essays on translating poetry under the rubric “The Impertinent Duet.” His articles on the translator’s art have appeared in Jacket2, Your Impossible Voice, The Journal of Poetics Research, PN Review and The Los Angeles Review of Books. He makes his home in San Francisco.

Articles and Reviews

Bill Mohr, “A Rilke Recital – by Art Beck Koan Kinship—Bill Mohr's Blog, June 1, 2021

Wally Swist, “Review of Etudes: A Rilke Recital,” Your Impossible Voice.


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