Letters to A Young Poet

Letters to A Young Poet

Book - 1993
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Drawn by some sympathetic note in his poems, young people often wrote to Rilke with their problems and hopes. From 1903 to 1908 Rilke wrote a series of remarkable responses to a young would-be poet, on poetry and on surviving as a sensitive observer in a harsh world. Accompanying the letters is a chronicle of Rilke's life showing what he was experiencing in his own relationship to life and work when he wrote these letters.
Publisher: New York : Norton, 1993, c1962.
Edition: Rev. ed.
ISBN: 9780393310399
0393310396
Branch Call Number: 831 RIL R 1962
Characteristics: 123 p. ; 22 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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saintjennifer May 02, 2018

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

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