Rue Rilke


Travelogue, literary autobiography, and journalistic exposé of the mores of capital punishment that chronicles its author’s initiatory Rilke pilgrimage.


Travelogue, literary autobiography, and journalistic exposé of the mores of capital punishment, Rue Rilke chronicles its author’s initiatory Rilke pilgrimage to France and Switzerland and—upon his return to America—his up-close involvement in death penalty politics. Immersed in the legal and human drama unfolding in Houston in the days leading up to an impending execution, the intimate linkage of love and death learned from Rilke aid him in his efforts to confront his country’s sanction of lethal violence and make spiritual sense of his torn, too often black-and-white world.

“Poetry matters and this book shows us why. The astonishing range of Rue Rilke—a travel diary, a meditation on Rilke, and a gripping account of efforts to oppose an unjust judicial execution—reveals the essense of what James Hillman calls soul-making. Poet, essayist, and passionate abolitionist, Daniel Polikoff gives us a book dedicated to the fiery poetry of life itself.”

                SUSAN ROWLAND, author of Jung as a Writer and The Ecocritical Psyche

“In his stunning early book Rue Rilke, Daniel Joseph Polikoff offers us an impassioned and stylistically brilliant travelogue. With Rilke as his Virgil, he descends in quest of the feminine values he must labor to integrate into contemporary life. Never before has Rilke’s mythic identification with the prodigal son been so personally authenticated, taken up with such imaginative immersion and inquisitive grace.  A remarkable achievement.” 

                BRUCE BOND, University of North Texas, author of Immanent Distance

“Polikoff’s is a profound and spacious spiritual imagination. That passionate young man who wrote of his experiences one summer more than two decades ago was filled with the old wisdom of The Poet, the song-lines of landscape, and the prophetic voice that dares confront “the fear that guts the spiritual house of this land.”  We need his voice now in our own deeply disturbed times.”

                NAOMI RUTH LOWINSKY, author of The Sister from Below and The Faust Woman Poems

 “Diary, travelogue, poetic exercise; philosophical meditation, political manifesto, existential essay: Rue Rilke charts a new course in the world of letters. Well-known European and American places become sites of meditation rehearsing humankind’s attempt to affirm life in the face of adversity and chaos. Combining prophecy and activism, Rue Rilke prods the imaginative heart to take a stand against the erasure of beauty and goodness, against the slumber of indifference and oblivion. In musing beings responsibility.”

               MARIE LIÉNARD-YETERIAN, University of Nice, France



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