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Departures from Rilke

Departures From Rilke is so many things: reenactments that verge on translation, the choreography of a poetry known so deep in the bones that it dances in the writer’s living room, a sort of thrashing with the original as Steven Cramer wrests Rilke into the 21st century. This book allows us to experience the poet’s mind shaped by a lifetime of inhabiting a set of poems that have provided specific and transcendent instruction to so many writers. That is why I find this book so very personal, unique, and delightful.

Cate Marvin

In this fascinating poetry collection, Steven Cramer’s seventh, the prize-winning poet and essayist . . . vaults Rilke’s work over the intervening century and delivers a selection of poems that are more modern than their originals yet retain Rilke’s intoxicating combination of ethereality and physicality. (Full review here).

Ann Leamon, Harvard Review Online

With tightly bladed imagery stripped of high Romanticism in a decidedly contemporary tone, Cramer reaches a new edge. Darkness and light, blindness and vision, such is mystery illuminated in a glimpse.

Barbara Siegel Carlson and Ewa Chrusciel, Solstice

The poems in Steven Cramer’s new book, Departures from Rilke, live within a sliver of space between the living and the dead. . . . Everything about death, dying, and how it brings to the fore life’s “real sun, real woods, very real green” is met with tremulous courage. If we know any kind of loss or grief, we can’t look away from the terribly beautiful, complicated truths of Cramer’s work.  (Full review here).

Amy Grier, The Hooghly Review

In Departures From Rilke, Steven Cramer’s most recent collection of poems, we encounter a great contemporary poetic mind — a “lab geek,” to borrow from his version of “The Alchemist” — engaged in a feat of alchemical transformation using as prima materia the lyric poems from Rilke’s books titled New Poems and New Poems: The Other Part, published in 1907 and 1908 respectively.  (Full review here).

Michael Mercurio, Cambridge Common Writers

Rather than offering “translations, adaptations, or ‘versions,’” poems in Cramer’s Departures are a mind-meld . . . The effect is dizzying; Cramer’s language keeps the reader balanced enough to follow his series of Rilke-inspired cartwheels.  (Full review here).

Joyce Peseroff, So I Gave You Quartz

Cramer repurposes, updates, and upends the matter and style of the originals, derived from his favorites among Rilke’s New Poems (1907-8).  His versions shimmer with contemporary resonance and personal passion, while always alert to Rilke’s chiaroscuro presence.

Ploughshares Bookshelf

This is what Rilke might have composed had he been born in the United States and been thoroughly conversant in the trends of contemporary poetics . . . so that each poem’s intention gains tremendous immediacy.  [Cramer has] carried Rilke—not from German into English—but from one consciousness into another, to breathe in our atmosphere.

Steven Ratiner, Red Letter Poems

Steven Cramer’s Departures from Rilke distills life and society’s difficult areas into palatable, poetic pieces which readers can savor and contemplate. It is personal yet universal, linguistically delightful, metaphysical yet real. In it, Cramer accomplishes what so few writers ever can.  (Full review here).

Nicole Yurcaba, sage cigarettes magazine

Readers can enjoy this book as Steven Cramer’s poetry, without even considering Rilke; but what makes this book profound and admirable is the uncanny sense that Rilke presides in the background of every poem, nodding permission to cherish these departures as a fresh product.  (Full review here).

Dan Carey, Highland Park Poetry