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Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria…

Letters to a Young Poet (original 1929; edition 1993)

by Rainer Maria Rilke, M.D. Herter Norton (Translator)

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4,766701,558 (4.25)1 / 52
Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet are arguably the most famous and beloved letters of the twentieth century. Written when the poet was himself still a young man, with most of his greatest work before him, they were addressed to a student who had sent Rilke some of his own writing, asking for advice on becoming a writer. The two never met, but over a period of several years Rilke wrote him these ten letters, cherished by readers for what translator Mitchell calls in his Foreword the "vibrant and deeply felt experience of life" that informs them. Eloquent and personal, Rilke's meditations on the creative process, the nature of love, the wisdom of children, and the importance of solitude offer a wealth of spiritual and practical guidance for anyone.--From publisher description.… (more)
Title:Letters to a Young Poet
Authors:Rainer Maria Rilke
Other authors:M.D. Herter Norton (Translator)
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (1993), Edition: Revised, Paperback, 123 pages
Collections:Read in 2010

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Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (1929)


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English (64)  Spanish (3)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (70)
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
“For he who creates must be a world of his own and find everything within himself and in the natural world that he has elected to follow.”

“Take pleasure in your growth in which no one can accompany you. And be kindhearted towards those you leave behind.” ( )
  bookworm12 | Dec 6, 2019 |
These ten letters from the poet Rilke’s contain not only advice on poetry and writing in general, but advice on many of the facets of life itself. Franz Kappus wrote to Rilke who had been at the same military school as Rilke around a decade earlier, and received this letters in return to his ongoing correspondence between 1903 and 1908.
This was an interesting time for Rilke, who throughout was struggling to work productively. Though he had already published two collections of poems which had made him relatively well-known, he was in a rut throughout much of this period, travelling around and working on various things, including a study of Rodin whom he got to know quite well. It was only years later that Rilke receive the intense bout of creative inspiration that led to his writing the scores of poems of the celebrated Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus which he completed over a few weeks in 1922.
Rilke is very sympathetic and understanding in these letters. He is kindly and helpful, and has much insight on the difficulties of life. We do not have here the letters that Kappus wrote to Rilke, as these letters were only published years later by Kappus, who naturally did not have the copies of the letters he himself sent. At the end of this volume we have a brief section covering the context of what Rilke was doing around the time when he wrote each of these letters, which is useful to have.
These letters are not just of use to the would-be poet, but contain so much good advice and insight into life that they would be worth reading for anyone who does not quite know what to do with themselves. Generally a handy volume to have around to dip back into when necessary. ( )
  P_S_Patrick | Jun 13, 2019 |
I've started and stopped this short slim volume a few times. I received the book as a gift from a good friend about two years ago and it's very different from what I normally read. I finally jumped into it on the morning of an important interview and couldn't put it down, perhaps I had to be in a certain state of mind to read it. The writing is just beautiful, and overwhelmingly romantic. The letters are short, and worth reading a few times over. They are overwhelmingly sympathetic to a young man's concerns about life, love and his profession. The writing is brave, not hiding behind any irony and good reading for times of crisis or gloom. ( )
  vhl219 | Jun 1, 2019 |
In our 'constantly connected' computer age, Rilke's deep exploration of solitude and patient artistic growth is a breath of inspiration.

"Only love can touch and hold [works of art] and be fair to them," he writes to Kappus, and then admonishes him to "believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it."

It is an understatement to say that Rilke sets the bar high for poetic expression, but every time I read through these letters I'm inspired to at least try to create what he'd call a few good lines before I breathe my last. ( )
  VicCavalli | Dec 8, 2018 |
Rilke wrote a series of letters to the young poet, Franz Xaver Kappus, beginning in 1902. Kappus was reading Rilke's poetry under the chestnut tress at the Military Academy in Wiener Nuestadt when his teacher, Horaček, noticed the volume. Rilke had been a pupil at the Military Lower School in Sankt Pölten when Horaček was a chaplain there, and Horaček had known Rilke personally. The military proved not to be for Rilke, and he continued his studies in Prague. Kappus, however, felt that his own choice to pursue a military career was "directly opposed to my own inclinations", yet would continue his military career for years after. In the meantime, Kappus decided to write to Rilke to ask for feedback on his own poetry, and Rilke maintained their correspondence despite his constant travels. By Rilke's tone in the letters, it is obvious that he enjoyed his correspondence with Kappus, and often told Kappus that if he wished to be a poet, he would need to change careers, or, at worst, he might find time in barracks life to keep at his poetry. The book provides Rilke's correspondence to Kappus, beginning with his return letter of 1903 and continuing until 1908. The book also includes a second work, The Letter from the Young Worker, which adopts a letter format to "a polemic against Christianity". This style recalls the dialogues of Plato and others, but in this case is one side of a potential written conversation. In many ways, the style mirrors the way we read Rilke's correspondence with Kappus, only having (mostly) one side of the narrative. In his first response, Rilke provides some important feedback. He suggests that Kappus' poetry lacks an identity. He suggests that Kappus is looking to the outside, but the answer is (pp. 6-7):Go into yourself. Examine the reason that bids you to write. This above all: ask yourself in your night's quietest hour: must I write? Dig down deep into yourself for a deep answer. And if it should be affirmative, if it is given to you to respond to this serious question with a loud and simple "I must', then construct your life according to this necessity; your life right into its most inconsequential and slightest hour must become a witness to this urge... A work of art is good if it has risen out of necessity... Accept this answer as it is, without seeking to interpret it. Perhaps it will turn out that you are called to be an artist... Then assume this fate and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking after the rewards that may come from outside.Imagine having such a mentor? Rilke was patient, kind, and wise. His connection with Kappus has, perhaps, something to do with being a poet while in the military system, something I identify with personally (having found that the military was, once I neared the tell-tale signs of the evening of my youth, "directly opposed to my own inclinations"). There is so much in such a short work, with Rilke's advice becoming "Candidean" - "take refuge in [subjects] offered by your own day-to-day life" - and focused on the individual rather than the work (and not in a mean-spirited way but as a mentor). Given that Kappus continues his military career and does not become a poet of any note, and that Rilke was the opposite in springing from the military's well, it makes me wonder: should we take care in choosing our careers so we do not waste time in the wrong station? Or should we learn what really floats our boat through trial and error? I suspect, based on Rilke's care for Kappus' work, that Rilke really knew himself as a result, while I felt that, perhaps, Kappus had taken the easy option. ( )
  madepercy | Oct 10, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (30 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rilke, Rainer Mariaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burnham, Joan M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Duquesnoy, TheodorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Enwald, LiisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kappus, Franz XaverIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, StephenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nerburn, KentForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Norton, M.D. HerterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sangster-Warnaars, C.W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Snell, ReginaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Storck, Joachim W.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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À Edmond Jaloux
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It was in the late autumn of 1902 - I was sitting under some ancient chestnuts in the park of the Military Academy in Wiener-Neustadt, reading. (Introduction)
Your letter only reached me a few days ago.
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La volupté de la chair est une expérience ces sens comparable au pur regard ou à la pure sensation qu’exhale un beau fruit sur la langue ; elle est une grande expérience, sans limites, qui nous est donnée, une connaissance du monde, la connaissance dans toute sa plénitude et sa splendeur.
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W.W. Norton

An edition of this book was published by W.W. Norton.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141192305, 0141192321

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