Ange Mlinko, Don Paterson and Edmund de Waal on Rilke

That Year Again: a series of special events marking some of 2022’s many significant centenaries, inspired by the writing about them in the LRB archive.

‘We have all kinds of images of the modern poet,’ wrote Michael Wood in the LRB in 1996, ‘but there can’t be a weirder or more unmanageable image than that of Rilke, the social and emotional butterfly, dreamy, hysterical, devoted to angels and children and the lure of death, perpetually stranded, it seems, in some angular Art Nouveau twilight, and yet capable of the sternest, strongest lines, mingling drastic common sense (“You must change your life”) with stuff which can strike the terror of God into the most settled atheist heart.’

Central to this modern myth is the ‘savage creative storm’ of 2-23 February 1922, when Rilke wrote the Sonnets to Orpheus and completed the Duino Elegies in less than three weeks. 100 years on from its conclusion, the poet and critic Ange Mlinko discussed Rilke, the cult of Orpheus and intense productivity with Don Paterson, whose versions of the Sonnets to Orpheus were published by Faber (and the LRB) in 2006, and the writer and artist Edmund de Waal, for whom the work of Rilke has been a constant touchstone.