Towards the end of his life the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) wrote nearly four hundred poems in French - notably the two collections published as Les Fenetres (The Windows) and Les Roses. The emergence of a French Rilke provides the starting point rather than the terminus for Jo Shapcott's new collection, Tender Taxes, which re-imagines Rilke's brief and fugitive lyrics as English poems. The occasion is Rilke, but these are more than versions: Shapcott's poems address this, arguing with the originals, crossing and re-crossing the frontier between translation and origination. Rilke and Shapcott are brought together in the shared incognito of a foreign language, 'speaking English through a French mouth'.
Jo Shapcott was born in London. Poems from her three award-winning collections, Electroplating the Baby (1988), Phrase Book (1992) and My Life Asleep (1998) are gathered in a selected poems, Her Book (2000). She has won a number of literary prizes including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Collection, the Forward Prize for Best Collection and the National Poetry Competition (twice). Tender Taxes, her versions of Rilke, was published in 2001. Of Mutability, published in 2010, won the Costa Book Award. In 2011 Jo Shapcott was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.