LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET by Rainer Maria Rilke


I first read Rilke’s letters when I was 16 or 17. Reread them again in my mid 20’s. So this was a revisit, of sorts. I was interested to read the letters in context, with return letters from the person they were written to. This made for an interesting read. Kappus was 19 when he first contacted Rilke. Rilke himself was only in his mid to late 20’s, but the depth of his thinking is quite striking. I could certainly see why it appealed to me so when I was young. He encourages Kappus to “…have patience about everything that is still unresolved in your heart…for now, live the questions..” He counsels Kappus to be patient with his sorrows, to dive deep into his solitude. Something else he writes that really struck me is – I am paraphrasing – that we don’t move forward into the future but that the future emerges through us, that it is stationary and it is us that are moving “…through infinite space.” Will be pondering this for awhile.

This was a good, thoughtful read for those dark, quiet times before the rest of the house wakes up. It is a small book, just over 150 pages, and was a real pleasure to reacquaint myself with.

8 comments on “LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET by Rainer Maria Rilke”

  1. Nice, JNaz! Love the comment about creating the future– I like to think about how we are moving all the time. It certainly is a perspective it seems humans/animals choose to ignore to a large degree…

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  2. Rilke is a hole in my literary education. He’s always and ever on my to-do list. So, thank you, JNaz & do you (or any of you) have a recommendation for a first read?

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    1. Rilke has been part of my lexicon for so long. I may go years without and then dive for a few days back into his poetry. His “Letters to a Young Poet” was my introduction and, though reading this particular translation was new to me, it would be a good intro into getting a taste for his mind and his language. On my book shelf I have “Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke” translated by Robert Bly, and “Duino Elegies” translated by David Young. Both are dense and beautiful. Selected Poems is nice as it covers a wide range of his work.

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  3. Great question, Teri – I’m looking forward to some informed responses. I haven’t used much strategy — neighbor Dave reads Rilke often to me so I’ll give him an ask when I catch him next.

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