Letters to A Young Poet

Letters to A Young Poet

Book - 1986
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The ten letters collected here are arguably the most famous and beloved letters of our century. Written when Rainer Maria Rilke was himself still a young man with most of his greatest work before him, they are addressed to a student who had sent Rilke some of his work, asking for advice about becoming a writer. The two never met, but over a period of several years Rilke wrote him these ten letters, which have been enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of readers for what Stephen Mitchell calls the "vibrant and deeply felt experience of life" that informs them.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, a division of Random House, 1986.
Edition: First Vintage Books edition.
Copyright Date: ©1984
ISBN: 9780394741048
Characteristics: xvi, 109 pages :,18 cm.

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bethgayle
Feb 07, 2018

A book that will forever be on my reread list, this collection of ten letters Rilke wrote to a young stranger between 1903 and 1908 are not just for poets, nor only for the young. Speaking to the very heart of the human experience, they address loneliness, love, waiting, and pursuing your dreams. Rilke has a way of perfectly describing the very things you thought were indescribable, and many of his famous quotes -- such as "live the questions" -- come from these pages.

When I’m frustrated or confused, this is often the book I pick up; its honesty about everyday life as well as “the big questions” keeps it pertinent and briskly comforting.

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wyenotgo
Dec 05, 2017

Half of this small book is taken up with a "Chronicle" that illuminates Rilke's personal situation and state of mind at the time the ten letters were written. The book never identifies the author of the Chronicle; in the absence of other evidence, one must attribute it to the translator, M.D.H. Norton. The letters themselves wouldn't be nearly as insightful without the Chronicle.
It's obvious from much of Rilke's writing that he bore a strong sense of his own inadequacy, his lack of knowledge and skills that many around him in the date-to-day world took for granted. Thus it was that he avoided offering criticism of his youthful correspondent's poems and confined his advice to matters of the inner life of an artist. Rilke strove to express the ineffable, to explore his own essence as a person and he urged the young poet Kappus to pursue similar goals. I was particularly struck with the intensity of the eighth letter, clearly in response to a plea for help, Kappus having poured out his soul in the letter that evoked this response from Rilke. Kappus has suffered great sorrow and is filled with questions of a deep and personal nature; Rilke responds in kind. Here, he urges Kappus to embrace suffering, allow it to strengthen him; and not to seek the sympathy of the outside world. Once again, Rilke's philosophy of the ascendancy of the inner man comes to the fore.

JCLJessecaB Feb 10, 2017

This is a very short collection of letters from poet Rainer Maria Rilke to one of his writing students. I've re-read this book many times throughout the years, and occasionally will flip open to random pages for inspiration on writing, art, and life.

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