Rainer Maria Rilke (also Rainer Maria von Rilke) (4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926) is considered one of the German language's greatest 20th century poets. His haunting images focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety — themes that tend to position him as a transitional figure between the traditional and the modernist poets.
He wrote in both verse and a highly lyrical prose. His two most famous verse sequences are the Sonnets to Orpheus and the Duino Elegies; his two most famous prose works are the Letters to a Young Poet and the semi-autobiographical The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. He also wrote more than 400 poems in French, dedicated to his homeland of choice, the canton of Valais in Switzerland.
He was born René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke
(then within Austria-Hungary
, now the Czech Republic
). His childhood and youth in Prague were sorrowful. His father, Josef Rilke (1838-1906), became a railway official after an unsuccessful military career. His mother, Sophie ("Phia") Entz (1851-1931), came from a well-to-do Prague family, the Entz-Kinzelbergers, who lived in a palace on the Herrengasse (Panská) 8, where René also spent much of his early years. Despite his mother's Jewish background, Rilke was raised Roman Catholic .
The relationship between Phia and her only son was encumbered by her prolonged mourning for her elder daughter who was lost after only a week of life. In fact, during Rilke's early years Phia acted as if she sought to recover the lost girl through the boy by dressing him in girl's clothing when he was young, and making him act like a girl, etc.. The parents' marriage fell apart in 1884.
His parents pressured the poetically and artistically gifted youth into entering a military academy, which he attended from 1886 until 1891, when he left due to illness. From 1892 to 1895 he was tutored for the university entrance exam, which he passed in 1895. In 1895 and 1896, he studied literature, art history, and philosophy in Prague and Munich.
In 1897 in Munich, Rainer Maria Rilke met and fell in love with the widely traveled intellectual and lady of letters Lou Andreas-Salome
(1861-1937). (Rilke changed his first name from "René" to the more masculine Rainer at Lou's urging.) His intense relationship with this married woman, with whom he undertook two extensive trips to Russia, lasted until 1900. But even after their separation, Lou continued to be Rilke's most important confidante until the end of his life. Having trained from 1912 to 1913 as a psychoanalyst
with Sigmund Freud
, she shared her knowledge of psychoanalysis with Rilke.
In 1898, Rilke undertook a journey lasting several weeks to Italy. In 1899, he traveled with Lou and her husband, Friedrich Andreas, to Moscow where he met the novelist Leo Tolstoy. Between May and August 1900, a second journey to Russia, accompanied only by Lou, again took him to Moscow and Saint Petersburg, where he met the family of Boris Pasternak and Spiridon Drozhzhin, a peasant poet. Later, "Rilke called two places his home: Bohemia and Russia".
In autumn 1900, Rilke stayed at the artists' colony at Worpswede, where his portrait was painted by the proto-expressionist Paula Modersohn-Becker (illus. above). It was here that he got to know the sculptress Clara Westhoff (1878-1954), whom he married the following spring. Their daughter Ruth (1901-1972) was born in December 1901. However, Rilke was not one for a middle-class family life; in the summer of 1902, Rilke left home and traveled to Paris to write a monograph on the sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). Still, the relationship between Rilke and Clara Westhoff continued for the rest of his life.
At first, Rilke had a difficult time in Paris, an experience that he called on in the first part of his only novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
. At the same time, his encounter with modernism was very stimulating: Rilke became deeply involved in the sculpture of Rodin, and then with the work of Paul Cézanne
. For a time he acted as Rodin's amanuensis
, eventually writing a long essay on Rodin and his work. Rodin taught him the value of objective observation, which effected the transformation of Rilke's poetic style that is manifested most pertinently in the Neue Gedichte
, and the preoccupation contained therein with poetically recreating the 'Kunstdingen' that he learned to see with his rejuvenated artistic vision. The poems of the Neue Gedichte
and Der Neuen Gedichte Anderer Teil
can be said to be Kunstdingen in themselves. During these years, Paris increasingly became the writer's main residence.
The most important works of the Paris period were Neue Gedichte (New Poems) (1907), Der Neuen Gedichte Anderer Teil (Another Part of the New Poems) (1908), the two "Requiem" poems (1909), and the novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, started in 1904 and completed in January 1910.
Between October 1911 and May 1912, Rilke stayed at the Castle Duino, near Trieste, home of Countess Marie of Thurn and Taxis. There, in 1912, he began the poem cycle called the Duino Elegies, which would remain unfinished for a decade due to a long-lasting creativity crisis.
The outbreak of World War I surprised Rilke during a stay in Germany. He was unable to return to Paris, where his property was confiscated and auctioned. He spent the greater part of the war in Munich. From 1914 to 1916 he had a turbulent affair with the painter Lou Albert-Lasard.
Rilke was called up at the beginning of 1916, and he had to undertake basic training in Vienna. Influential friends interceded on his behalf, and he was transferred to the War Records Office and discharged from the military on 9 June 1916. He spent the subsequent time once again in Munich, interrupted by a stay on Hertha Koenig's Gut Bockel in Westphalia. The traumatic experience of military service, a reminder of the horrors of the military academy, almost completely silenced him as a poet.
On 11 June 1919, Rilke traveled from Munich to Switzerland
. The outward motive was an invitation to lecture in Zürich, but the real reason was the wish to escape the post-war chaos and take up once again his work on the Duino Elegies
. The search for a suitable and affordable place to live proved to be very difficult. Among other places, Rilke lived in Soglio, Locarno
, and Berg am Irchel. Only in the summer of 1921 was he able to find a permanent residence in the Chateau de Muzot in the commune of Veyras
, close to Sierre
in Valais. In May 1922, Rilke's patron Werner Reinhart purchased the building so that Rilke could live there rent-free.
In an intense creative period, Rilke completed the Duino Elegies within several weeks in February 1922. Before and after, he wrote both parts of the poem cycle Sonnets to Orpheus containing 55 entire sonnets. Rilke afterwards called it "the great giving." Both works together constitute the high points of Rilke's work.
From 1923 on, Rilke increasingly had to struggle with health problems that necessitated many long stays at a sanatorium in Territet, near Montreux, on Lake Geneva. His long stay in Paris between January and August 1925 was an attempt to escape his illness through a change in location and living conditions. Despite this, numerous important individual poems appeared in the years 1923-1926 (including Gong and Mausoleum), as well as a comprehensive lyrical work in French.
Only shortly before his death was Rilke's illness diagnosed as leukemia. The poet died on 29 December 1926 in the Valmont Sanatorium in Switzerland, and was laid to rest on 2 January 1927 in the Raron cemetery to the west of Visp. Rilke had believed that his death would be from blood poisoning as the result of having been pricked by a rose thorn. He chose his own epitaph as:
Rose, oh reiner Widerspruch, Lust,
Niemandes Schlaf zu sein unter soviel
Rose, oh pure contradiction, joy
of being No-one's sleep, under so
Rilke's literary style
Rilke's work was highly influenced by his education and knowledge of classic authors. Ancient gods Apollo, Hermes and hero Orpheus can be found often as motifs in his poems and are depicted in new ways and original interpretations (e. g. story of Eurydice, apathetic and dazed by death, not even recognising her lover Orpheus, who descended to hell for her, in the poem Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes). Other characteristic figures in Rilke's poems are angels, roses and a character of a poet and his creative work.
Rilke often worked with metaphors, metonymy and contradictions (e. g. as in his epitaph, rose is represented as a symbol of sleep - rose petals remind of closed eye lids, and of awakened senses - colour, scent and fragility of a rose).
Rilke's 1898 poem, "Visions of Christ" depicted Mary Magdalene as the mother to Jesus' child.
Quoting Susan Haskins:
It was Rilke's explicit belief that Christ was not divine, was entirely human, and deified only on Calvary, expressed in an unpublished poem of 1893, and referred to in other poems of the same period, which allowed him to portray Christ's love for Mary Magdalene, though remarkable, as entirely human.
- German philosopher Martin Heidegger cites Rilke as an example of the highest form of thinker in his essay "What Are Poets For?" The essay's theme is largely explored through the examination of an "improvised verse" (short poem) Rilke wrote in 1924. Heidegger, sometimes considered the most influential German thinker of the 20th century, ranks Rilke in the German poetic tradition as second only to Friedrich Hölderlin.
- Erie Chapman cites Rilke frequently in his essays on caregiving.
- The Rilke Project involves contemporary pop artists and actors (including Xavier Naidoo, BAP, Jürgen Prochnow, and Katja Riemann) interpreting Rilke's texts to make Rilke accessible to new generations.
- The Rainer Maria Rilke Foundation in Sierre, was established in 1986 to promote the work of the poet.
- Rilke has also been celebrated in Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, William Gaddis' voluminous novel The Recognitions, and William H. Gass' epic, controversial novel The Tunnel, in which the main character makes repeated reference to his interest in Rilke's poetry and to his long-ago love affair with a woman known only as "Lou." Rilke is also referred to in Julia Alvarez's novel How the García Girls Lost Their Accents.
- J.D. Salinger alludes to Rilke in various works, including the novel Franny and Zooey and the short story A Perfect Day for Bananafish.
- Audrey Niffenegger mentions and quotes from Rilke frequently in The Time Traveler's Wife.
- Douglas Coupland quotes Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet in Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture.
- A Rilke translation inspired Lost in Translation, a celebrated 1974 poem by James Merrill.
- Jo Shapcott's collection of poems, Tender Taxes, is based on a series of Rilke's poems written in French.
- Rilke's poetry highly influenced the life and writings of Etty Hillesum.
- The Iranian modernist writer Sadegh Hedayat was deeply moved by Rilke's meditations on death.
- Chilean novelist Germán Marín's trilogy Un animal mudo levanta la vista is named for a verse in the eighth Duino Elegy.
- Rilke's "Sonnets to Orpheus" was inspiration for W. H. Auden's Journey to a War, published in 1939.
- Rilke was mentioned in Tennessee William's The Two-Character Play
- The relationship of Rilke and Clara Westhoff and her early death is the subject Adrienne Rich's poem, "Paula Becker to Clara Westhoff". As the epigraph states, "Paula Becker 1876-1907 Clara Westhoff 1878-1954 became friends at Worpswede, an artist's colony near Bremen, Germany, summer 1899. In January 1900, spent a half-year together in Paris, where Paula painted and Clara studied sculpture with Rodin. In August they returned to Worpswede, and spent the next winter together in Berlin. In 1901, Clara married the poet Rainer Maria Rilke; soon after, Paula married the painter Otto Modersohn. She died in a hemorrhage after childbirth, murmuring, What a shame!" Dream of a Common Language, Norton
- The title of Laying out the Body by Lucien Jenkins Seren Books, 1989 is taken from Rilke's 'Leichen-Wäsche', and that poem is translated within the collection, which also contains other work by Rilke.
- The title of Riding with Rilke: Reflections on Motorcycles and Books by Canadian author and academic Ted Bishop is in reference to Rilke, who is mentoned briefly in the book.
- Jane Fonda quotes Rilke numerous times in her autobiography My Life So Far.
- In Milan Kundera's novel Immortality Rilke is called to the Eternal Trial of Goethe, relating to Goethe's treatment of Bettina, and Kundera quotes a passage from The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge as Rilke's testimony.
- Mexican composer, Sergio Cardenas wrote Un Rap para Mozart (A Rap to Mozart). A book about musical anecdotes with a deep and personal point of view on some compositions of his own as well as Bach’s, Bruckner’s, and Mozart’s of course. Rilke’s poetry is quoted in translations made by the composer himself. In a chapter called "El Aplauso" ("The Ovation"), fragments from The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge are quoted and discussed. The whole book, as the composer declared himself, is haunted by Rilke’s spiritual influence.
- Maxine Hong Kingston refers to Rilke several times in her book Tripmaster Monkey.
- The novel Lost Son by M. Allen Cunningham (2007) tells the story of Rilke's life from birth to age 42.
- "A Rose for Ecclesiastes", a 1963 story by Roger Zelazny, features the main character quoting Rilke's poem "Spanish Dancer."
- The title and basic idea of Predrag Matvejevic's The Other Venice (2002, English translation 2007) was taken from Rilke's Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.
- The Triestine main character in Susanna Tamaro's Anima Mundi (1997, English translation 2007) refers to the fundamental influence of The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge and The Duino Elegies in his life.
- In Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide, a major character (Nirmal) is a fan of Rilke's verses, and excerpts feature prominently in the text.
- Philip Roth's 1972 novella The Breast concludes with Rilke's poem "Archaic Torso of Apollo." The main character, an English professor, believes that his story will "illuminate these great lines for those of you new to the poem."
- During several episodes of the TV show "Beauty and the Beast," starring Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton, Rilke's poems were quoted many times.
- Rilke was quoted by Lex Luthor in Smallville, Season Three, in the episode "Legacy," where Lex said, "It's like the German poet Rilke said - 'a person isn't who they are during the last conversation you had with them - they're who they've been throughout your whole relationship'."
- Wim Wenders cites Rilke as the inspiration behind his angels in Wings of Desire.
- Rilke's poem The Panther is quoted in the 1990 film Awakenings (based on the 1973 book of the same name by neurologist and author Oliver Sacks), expressing the emotional undertone of the story.
- In the 1993 movie Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, actress Whoopi Goldberg refers to Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet.
- Rilke is quoted in Kissing Jessica Stein by a woman looking for a woman in a personal ad. This quote is what moves the main character, Jessica, to answer the ad, despite her presumed heterosexuality.
- Rilke's poem "Archaic Torso of Apollo" is quoted by Miriam, played by Gena Rowlands, in Woody Allen's 1988 film Another Woman.
- Rilke's poem You Who Never Arrived is quoted by Faith, played by Marisa Tomei, in Norman Jewison's 1994 film Only You.
- Rilke is referenced pejoratively in the film Igby Goes Down when Igby, played by Kieran Culkin says, "Every Christmas, some asshole gives me this copy of Young Poet with this patronizing note on the flap about how it's supposed to change my life."
- "Rain", the Juliette Lewis character in Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives is named after Rilke.
- "For the sake of a single poem" an animated short by Shamik Majumdar (India 1999, National Institute of Design) is based on an excerpt from Rilke's book, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.
- Rilke's quote "For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, [...] the work for which all other work is but preparation" is quoted before the end credits in Katherine Brooks's OUTFEST award winning 2006 film Loving Annabelle.
- The indie rock band Rainer Maria takes its name from Rilke, and at least some of their merchandise bears the poet's image.
- The Cocteau Twins song "Rilkean Heart", on the 1996 album Milk and Kisses, is an homage to Jeff Buckley who was a lifelong lover of Rilke's work.
- The Swiss composer Frank Martin set Rilke's prose "Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke"(The lay of the love and death of cornet Christopher Rilke)to orchestral song circle in German,premiered in February 1945. Viktor Ullmann,an Austrian composer,also composed this prose.
- The British composer Oliver Knussen has set texts of Rainer Maria Rilke to music in his unaccomapanied Rilke songs and in Requiem: Songs for Sue.
- The Trieste-based British composer Baron Raffaello de Banfield Tripcovich set several poems of Rilke for soprano and large orchestra, including 'Serale' and 'Liebeslied' (1968), 'Der Tod des Geliebten' and 'Der Sturm' (1972), and 'Four Rilke songs' (1986).
- The Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich set several of Rilke's poems to music in his Symphony No. 14.
- The American contemporary composer Morten Lauridsen set five of Rilke's French-language "Rose" poems to music in a choral piece titled Les Chansons des Roses.
- The contemporary Danish composer Per Nørgård has set the Rilke sonnet to Orpheus "Singe die Gärten" as the second and final movement of his 3rd symphony.
- The contemporary Norwegian composer Arne Nordheim has set Rilke's "Todeserfahrung" in his Wirklicher Wald.
- In 2006, Pianist Brad Mehldau wrote a cycle of art songs for soprano and piano based on seven poems from Rilke's The Book of Hours: Love Poems to God. Mehldau premiered the work with Renée Fleming at Carnegie Hall in 2006, which was recorded and released on the album Love Sublime.
- The German composer Paul Hindemith set Six Chansons, 6 pieces for a cappella choir, of the French poetry by Rilke (1939), as well as the imposing German language song cycle Das Marienleben (1922, revised 1948).
- Composer Sofia Gubaidulina, a great admirer of Rilke's work, includes the beginning of "Vom Tode Mariä I" (Derselbe große Engel, welcher einst) at the end of her piece Stufen.
- Robert Hunter, best known for his work with The Grateful Dead, translated The Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus. The Sonnets translation is a rhymed translation. He also recorded readings of his translations, the Duino Elegies recording was made with keyboardist Tom Constanten.
- Indie rock group CocoRosie's song Terrible Angels mentions Rilke along with Sigmund Freud and Jim Morrison.
- Contemporary rock group Sixpence None the Richer's song entitled "Still Burning" was influenced by Rilke's imagery of the heart as a hand.
- Chicago jazz vocalist Kurt Elling combined a Rilke poem with a melody from the Dave Brubeck Quartet to form his song "Those Clouds Are Heavy, You Dig?"
- The American country music songwriter and vocalist, Ray Wylie Hubbard, quotes Rilke in his song "The Messenger."
- Martyn Bates and Anne Clark set poems by Rilke to music on the album "Just After Sunset"
- Composer Libby Larsen set a Rilke poem "Liebeslied" to accompany 5 other songs in her song cycle, Beloved, Thou Hast Brought Me Many Flowers.
- American country songwriter/musician Rodney Crowell mentions "Rilke's Panther" in his song "Come On Funny Feeling," from the 2003 critically acclaimed Fate's Right Hand album: "I don't want to wind up bitter lost inside a silent rage / Or become like Rilke's panther out here locked up in a cage...."
- The composer Harrison Birtwistle has set some of the Sonnets to Orpheus in his piece 'Orpheus Elegies' for Oboe, Harp and Counter-tenor.
- Fragments of Rilke's poetry are inscribed in certain paintings by Cy Twombly.
- In 1968, American artist Ben Shahn illustrated a set of verses from Rilke's The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge called For the Sake of a Single Verse...
Selection of works
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Sämtliche Werke in 12 Bänden (Complete Works in 12 Volumes), published by Rilke Archive in association with Ruth Sieber-Rilke, supplied by Ernst Zinn. Frankfurt am Main (1976)
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Werke (Works). Edition in four volumes with commentary and supplementary volume, published by Manfred Engel, Ulrich Fülleborn, Dorothea Lauterbach, Horst Nalewski and August Stahl. Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig (1996 and 2003)
Volumes of poetry
- Leben und Lieder (Life and Songs) (1894)
- Larenopfer (Lares' Sacrifice) (1895)
- Traumgekrönt (Dream-Crowned) (1897)
- Advent (Advent) (1898)
- Mir zur Feier (To me Only Celebration) (1909)
- Das Stunden-Buch (The Book of Hours)
- Das Buch vom mönchischen Leben (The Book of Monastic Life) (1899)
- Das Buch von der Pilgerschaft (The Book of Pilgrimage) (1901)
- Das Buch von der Armut und vom Tode (The Book of Poverty and Death) (1903)
- Das Buch der Bilder (The Book of Images) (4 Parts, 1902-1906)
- Neue Gedichte (New Poems) (1907)
- Geschichten vom Lieben Gott (Stories of God) (Collection of narrations, 1900)
- Auguste Rodin (1903)
- Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke (The Lay of the Love and Death of Cornet Christoph Rilke) (Lyric narration, 1906)
- Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge (The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge) (Novel, 1910)
- Gesammelte Briefe in sechs Bänden (Collected Letters in Six Volumes), published by Ruth Sieber-Rilke and Carl Sieber. Leipzig (1936-1939)
- Briefe (Letters), published by the Rilke Archive in Weimar. Two volumes, Wiesbaden (1950, reprinted 1987 in single volume).
- Briefe in Zwei Bänden (Letters in Two Volumes) (Horst Nalewski, Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1991)
Other volumes of letters
- Briefe an Auguste Rodin (Insel Verlag, 1928)
- Briefwechsel mit Marie von Thurn und Taxis, two volumes, edited by Ernst Zinn with a forward by Rudolf Kassner (Editions Max Niehans, 1954)
- Briefwechsel mit Thankmar von Münchhausen 1913 bis 1925 (Suhrkamp Insel Verlag, 2004)
- Briefwechsel mit Rolf von Ungern-Sternberg und weitere Dokumente zur Übertragung der Stances von Jean Moréas (Suhrkamp Insel Verlag, 2002)
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies and The Sonnets To Orpheus translated by A. Poulin, Jr. (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1975) ISBN 0-395-25058-7
- The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, ed. and trans. Stephen Mitchell, Introduction by Robert Hass (Vintage; Reissue edition 13 March 1989)
- Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, ed. and trans. Robert Bly New York, 1981)
- The Unknown Rilke, trans. Franz Wright (Oberlin College Press, expanded ed. 1990) ISBN 0-932440-56-8
- The Book of Fresh Beginnings: Selected Poems, trans. David Young (Oberlin College Press, 1994) ISBN 0-932440-68-1
- The Essential Rilke, ed. and trans. Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann (Hopewell, NJ, 1999)
- Uncollected Poems, trans. Edward Snow (North Point Press, New York, 1966)
- Two Prague Stories, trans. Isabel Cole (Vitalis, Český Těšín, 2002)
- Pictures of God: Rilke's Religious Poetry, ed. and trans. Annemarie S. Kidder (Livonia, MI 2005)
- Duino Elegies, Sonnets to Orpheus, Letters to a young poet: Box set, ed. and trans. Stephen Mitchell
- Duineser Elegien: Elegies from the Castle of Duino, trans. V. Sackville-West (Hogarth Press, London, 1931)
- Duino Elegies, trans. J.B. Leishman and Stephen Spender (W. W. Norton, New York, 1939)
- Duino Elegies, trans. Jessie Lemont (Fine Editions Press, New York, 1945)
- Duineser Elegien: The Elegies of Duino, trans. Nora Wydenbruck (Amandus, Vienna, 1948
- Duinesian Elegies, trans. Elaine E. Boney (University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1975)
- Duino Elegies, trans. David Young (W. W. Norton, New York, 1978) ISBN 0-393-30931-2
- "Duino Elegies," trans. Gary Miranda (Azul Editions, Falls Church, VA, 1996) ISBN 11-885214-07-3
- Duino Elegies, trans. Robert Hunter w/ block prints by Mareen Hunter (Hulogosi Press, 1989)
Sonnets to Orpheus
- Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. with notes and commentary J.B. Leishman (Hogarth Press, London, 1936)
- Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. C. F. MacIntyre, (U.C. Berkeley Press, 1961)
- Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. M.D. Herder Norton (W. W. Norton, New York, 1962)
- Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. Jessie Lemont (Fine Editions PRess, New York, 1945)
- Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. with notes Stephen Mitchell (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1985)
- Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. with notes and commentary Edward Snow (North Point Press, New York, 2004)ISBN: 
- Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. Willin Barnstone (Shambahala, Boston, 2004)
- Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. Leslie Norris and Alan Keele (ed. Lucien Jenkins) (Camden House, Inc 1989)
- Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. Robert Hunter
- Orpheus, trans. Don Paterson (Faber, 2006)
- Stories of God, trans. M.D. Herter Norton (W. W. Norton, New York, 1932)
- Letters to a Young Poet, trans. M.D. Herter Norton (W.W. Norton, New York, 1934) ISBN 0-393-31039-6
- Poems from The Book of Hours trans. Babette Deutsch (New Directions, New York, 1941)
- The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, trans. M.D. Herter Norton (W.W. Norton, New York, 1949) ISBN 0-393-30881-2
- The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, trans. Stephen Mitchell (New York, 1983)
- The Lay of the Love and Death of Cornet Christophe Rilke, trans. Stephen Mitchell (Graywolf Press, 1985) ISBN 0-915308-77-0
- The Book of Hours: Prayers to a Lowly God, trans. Annemarie S. Kidder (Evanston, 2001)
- Larenopfer, trans. and commentary by Alfred de Zayas, with drawings by Martin Andrysek (Red Hen Press, Los Angeles, 2005)
- Rainer Maria Rilke's The Book of Hours: A New Translation with Commentary, trans. Susan Ranson, edited with an introduction and notes by Ben Hutchinson (Camden House, New York / Boydell & Brewer Ltd, Woodbridge, UK, 2008) ISBN 978-1-57113-380-9
Books on Rilke
- Ralph Freedman, Life of a Poet: Rainer Maria Rilke, New York 1996.
- Donald Prater, A Ringing Glass: The Life of Rainer Maria Rilke, Oxford University Press, 1994
- Paul Torgersen, Dear Friend: Rainer Maria Rilke and Paula Modersohn-Becker, Northwestern University Press, 1998.
- A Companion to the Works of Rainer Maria Rilke, ed. Erika A and Michael M. Metzger, Rochester 2001.
- Rilke Handbuch: Leben - Werk - Wirkung, ed. Manfred Engel and Dorothea Lauterbach, Stuttgart and Weimar 2004.
- Mood, John J. L. Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties. (New York: W. W. Norton 1975, reissue 2004) ISBN 0-393-31098-1.
- Mood, John. Rilke on Death and Other Oddities. Philadelphia: Xlibris, 2006. ISBN 1-4257-2818-9.