Rilke, hydrangeas and other plants: who's written what?

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Rilke, hydrangeas and other plants: who's written what?

Beitrag von henryrholland » 5. Sep 2014, 14:59

The more I read Rilke the more I wonder about Rilke and plants. After 13 years in Germany I don't stop enjoying the line, "Jetzt reifen schon die roten Berberitzen": yet I've not managed to find the plants in the wild here in central Europe. Who has written on Rilke and plants, and on Rilke and flowers? There is so much there, in the poems, in the prose. Who's doing a PhD on Rilke and Flowers? My modest contribution has limited itself so far to the subject of the 'Blaue Hortensie': the blue hydrangea. Is it right to talk about 'umbels' in the English translation of the poem of that name?
Foreremost for the non-German speakers, but also for all those engaging with/studying Rilke's international reception: I've now published online a comparison between what could be seen as a definitive translation by William Gass ~ published as it is in Michael Hofmann's canon forming 'The Faber Book of 20th-Century German Poems' (2005) ~ side by side by my translation of the same poem. The idea is to sharpen reader appreciation of what changes in Rilke's work when it enters the English speaking world, and with this aim I'd love to hear any comments you the reader might like to make, on the two different translations. They can be read here on my blog: ... -gass.html, where you'll also find the comments function.
Stepping back for a minute, Hofmann's condescending dismissal of Rilke's influence on "English and American poetry" is hard to stomach: "Historically, I don't think twentieth-century German poetry has had much effect on English and American poetry, except, in a shallow and mistaken way." (The Faber Book .., 2005. p.xxiii). First, I don't see why Hofmann writes 'English and American poetry' when he must surely mean 'English language poetry' ~ or does he mean there was this big positive Rilkean influence on Scottish poetry in English, or on Irish poetry, which mysteriously vanished over the River Tweed border, and over the Irish Sea? And what should all other English language poets outside the U.S./England make of Hofmann's category? More importantly ~ Rilke's biggest influence on English language poetry has been on poems which are shallow and mistaken? It was Michael Hofmann himself who included at least one Rilke translation by Don Paterson in '20th Century German Poems'; and it was Don Paterson who wrote 'Orpheus: A version of Rilke' (Faber & Faber, 2006), Paterson's versions of each of the Sonnets to Orpheus. Rilke has effected Paterson and so many others: how else could such great works emerge out of an interaction with Rilke? Seamus Heaney's Rilke translation, published in the LRB in 2005, is only one of countless texts that could be mentioned here:
But did anyone go to the discussion with Don Paterson & Durs Grünbein about Rilke's legacy, at the London Poetry Festival in July of this year (2014)? Did their take on the Rilke / German poetry 'effect' challenge Michael Hoffman's reading? And lastly: can anyone refer me to any Hofmann text where he names names about which poets, and which poems, were effected 'in a shallow and mistaken way' by Rilke and Celan?
Perhaps Hofmann is right in all of this. That would be easier to judge if we knew which poets and poems he was talking ab