Book Review - Letters to a Young Poet , Rainer Maria, Rilke

Letters to a Young Poet

“Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does  not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without fear that after them may come no summer. It does come. But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide. I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which I am grateful: patience is everything!”

Why I Picked This Book?

This one I happen to find on twitter. I came across the name Rainer Maria Rilke and the name of the book ” Letters to a Young Poet” a couple of times in a single day. I checked about Rilke and found that he is among the top poets of 2oth century and this book is a classic. So I decided to read the book (letters), and it was so interesting read that I read the book twice. 

The Book

Letters to the Young Poet – as the name suggests is a collection of ten letters written by Rainer Maria Rilke to a young cadet, Franz Xaver Kappus, at a military school and an aspiring poet advising him on writing. The young poet reached out to Rilke asking feedback about the poems he wrote, what it means to be poet and can he be a poet while being an army officer and such other questions. Rilke wrote him ten letters advising about life, solitude, pain, silence, time, patience, love and sexuality.

These letters were compiled and published by Franz Kappus in 1929, three years after the death of Rilke. Later on this book was translated into various languages.

The letters although, were written as an advice to an aspiring poet, however it contains life lessons and philosophy Rilke. The book can be guide to anyone who is at the crossroads and unable to decide what path to choose. Letters to Young Poet more than an advice to Franz Kappus, tells a lot more about Rilke as a person and as an artist, his approach towards art and life. 

The broad suggestions that Rilke gives to Franz is look for the answers within yourself rather than seeking it from outside and be patient.

You are so young, so before all begening, and I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear, sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers which can not be given to 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.

The subjects he had covered in his letters are so universal and the explanation are so insightful is the reason why this book is considered a classic. 

About The Author and Translator

René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke (4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926), better known as Rainer Maria Rilke was a Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist. He is “widely recognized as one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets”.He wrote both verse and highly lyrical prose.Several critics have described Rilke’s work as “mystical”.His writings include one novel, several collections of poetry and several volumes of correspondence in which he invokes images that focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude and anxiety. These themes position him as a transitional figure between traditional and modernist writers.

Charlie Louth is a fellow at Queen’s College, Oxford, where he lectures in German. He is the author of Hölderlin and the Dynamics of Translation.

Our Verdict

A good book to keep, provides perspective on life. This is among the book which can be your life long friend and guide. 

To get your own copy of Letters to a Young Poet please click on the link below.

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