Tag Archives: poem

Outgoing by Matt Rasmussen : The Poetry Foundation

Outgoing by Matt Rasmussen : The Poetry Foundation.


Mary Kinzie’s Translation Notes on Rilke’s “Herbsttag”: Published by the Poetry Foundation

Poetry magazine : Published by the Poetry Foundation.

Her choice to translate “es ist Zeit. / Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren” to “it is time / to let your shadow lengthen on the sundials” demonstrates a digested control over her understanding of the poem, compared to Stephen Mitchell’s (masterful) translation of the same line to “it is time / Now overlap the sundials with your shadows”

I gather that she had a decided focus on the sonnet form and the metrical space of the poem that determined much of her choices and inventions in this refreshing translation.

Perhaps it’s time to change the blog title?

See her translation as published by The Poetry Foundation

Poetic Forms

Try this


A tangent to symmetry focusing on poetic patterns.

The marvelous thing about humans is that we come at things from remarkably unique viewpoints. While Nathan may throw symmetry at you in the form of fractals or novels or reciprocity (a diverse mix of topics on its own), symmetry makes me think of poetic forms. Poetic forms vastly vary in the ways they come about–for instance, Lewis Carroll’s square stanza can be read both vertically and horizontally to the same effect.

Then there are forms like the sestina, which is my personal favorite. The sestina spirals the same six words around in each stanza with a new order each time. It often ends up being more subtle then you might imagine–the end words coming back in different ways each time and sometimes even in homonym form. Yet they continue to reappear and create a sort of aura for the poem.

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Rilke’s “Herbsttag”: “Autumn Day”

Rainer Maria Rilke’s

“Autumn Day”

Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
and on the meadows let the wind go free.

Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
grant them a few more warm transparent days,
urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now, will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
will sit, read, write long letters through the evening,
and wander along the boulevards, up and down,
restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

-translated by Stephen Mitchell

This poem, from Rilke’s The Book of Pictures, is indeed the namesake Overlapping Sundials. That potent second line strikes such a loud hour as you read it, in either it’s original German or any English translation. In Stephen Mitchell’s English translation, we read, “Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by. / Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,” and the original German reads: “Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer was sehr groß. / Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,” (1-2). Line two of the English translation begins with “Now,” a time reference that doesn’t come from the speaker in the original German poem. Where did the now come from? From the front end, so to say, it provides one additional syllable to the line (originally 11,) and provides a curiously soft tone for the command to “overlap the the sundials with your shadows,” that grounds the speaker to his mortal and human place. This “now” would not work the same way in German. To use “jetzt,” the German word for “now,” would sound like a curse, like a challenge to God, a way of speaking that would condescend to the speaker’s “Herr” or “Lord.” It goes without saying that the original language of the poem reads so beautifully in comparison to to the English attempt. That three-letter word, “Leg,” from the original second line carries a more versatile meaning than our English equivalents, lay or place, which would feel terribly misplaced in this poem. Mitchell has made then, a commendable adaptation of this line from something that would read, if basely translated, “Lay your shadows upon the sundials” to a line that compares in strength and conviction to the German. I am continuously thankful for Mitchell’s brilliant translations, but this particular poem strikes me again and again with the strength between the translation and the original. It calls forth a stronger comprehension of the metaphor to read and understand the German and compare the English. In German, the reader sees a God-figure in his might, with his will, and his command of fate, taking auspice over humankind and our world. The English line, with the verb “overlap” invokes a dark understanding of the passage of time and God’s intent. It makes a sober witness of the reader and develops a finer distinction of man and earth vs time and fate. It’s that “overlap” that registers, in the English reader’s understanding, an acknowledgement of our concrete, experienced, controlled world and a seasonal transparency. Overlap means to us that something is covering something else, whether it be completely, partially, or progressively more over time, that word carries those multiple possibilities. In this poem, it only reinforces the sense of insecurity and lack of influence that truly strikes the reader like a sudden sundial. But also, it illuminates our wonder and basic understanding of multiple levels of experience.

Stop the Milk / Poetry Off the Shelf : The Poetry Foundation

Stop the Milk / Poetry Off the Shelf : The Poetry Foundation.

I wish I had Black Aperature  by Matt Rasmussen! What a brilliant poem. You can hear the years of honing and revising in this poem. You can hear the beauty and control in the work that’s been 10 years in the making.