Departures from Rilke
by Steven Cramer
56 Poems ~ 87 pages
Price: $18.00
Publisher: Arrowsmith Press
ISBN #: 9798987924129
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Steven Cramer’s seventh book of poems, Departures from Rilke, derives from his favorites among Rainer Maria Rilke’s two volumes of New Poems (1907/08). Cramer repurposes, updates, and sometimes upends the subject matter and style of the originals, often leaving Rilke’s premises almost altogether. A practice dating back to Thomas Wyatt’s imports of Petrarch and including Robert Lowell’s Imitations (1961), Cramer’s approach makes for an original poetry of personal and contemporary resonance, while remaining alert to Rilke’s chastening presence.


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.”
– Cate Marvin, author of Fragment of the Head of a Queen


Steven Cramer is the author of The Eye that Desires to Look Upward (1987); The World Book (1992); Dialogue for the Left and Right Hand (1997); Goodbye to the Orchard (2004), which won the 2005 Sheila Motton Prize from the New England Poetry Club, and was named a 2005 Honor Book in Poetry by the Massachusetts Center for the Book; Clangings (2012); Listen (2020); and Departures from Rilke (2023).

His poems and criticism have appeared in numerous literary journals, including The Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, The New Republic, The Paris Review, Partisan Review, and Poetry. He founded and currently teaches in the Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University in Cambridge.


Bomb Site

by Steven Cramer

Morning ignores it; and who knows?–
the burnt lime trees and pitted block of flats
might be fakes. So might that warm crater

filling with kids–God knows from where–
who play catch with the littlest one’s shirt,
then stop to watch a tenant’s eldest son

poke under the crushed, incinerated deck,
teasing out twin tea kettles in a washtub.
He looks like he’s acting too, for the kids

or anyone naïve enough to think anyone
lived here. Whatever remains is incredible
as history now, where everyone’s a stranger.


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