Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Publisher/Year: W. W. Norton & Company, 1962
Format: Paperback
Pages: 123
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟



These letters are timeless. Rilke said himself that much of his creative expression went into his correspondence, and here he touches upon subjects and ideas we recognize as characteristic in his poetry. Like so many of his letters, these are addressed to a correspondent he had never seen. Drawn by some sympathetic note in one or another of his poems, some unlooked-for response to what was in their own minds, young people were wont to write him their problems and ask his advice. In this case of the Young Poet the replies form a compact group of ten letters in which every young artist and many another young person will find understanding and good counsel. Those who already know the acutely sensitive observer of The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge and the whimsical inventor of the Stories of God will find here a Rilke clear-sighted, constructive, and eminently positive in his attitude toward life and art.

Biographical notes at the end of the volume give an account of the poet’s own life at the time which will be of interest to all readers of Rilke.

What I thought

I don’t want to go into too much detail about this little book because I feel like the advice & inspiration within is best experienced firsthand.

So, just a couple things:

– I’ve never read any of Rilke’s poetry, but now, having read this, I need to fix that.

– I added so many quotes from this–if this was my copy, it would be riddled with highlights & underlines.

– Rilke is a fascinating person. I was glad to have the background info on Rilke, as it gave good context to the letters. I also have to say, I think these letters are perfectly demonstrative of Rilke’s personality & outlook of many things. As corny as it sounds, I just thought it was a really great thing for him to do–to respond to & form a friendship/mentorship with young Mr. Kappus.

– I do have to note that I don’t think I read the best translation of this (M. D. Herter Norton, 1962). Some of the sentiments were lost on me, I think, due to this.

Overall, even though this little book was something different than my usual reading choices, I thoroughly enjoyed it & it sparked an interest in Rilke’s poetry.


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