“Letters to a Young Poet” is authored by Rainer Maria Rilke (bio). They were inspired by correspondence with Franz Xaver Kappus, an admirer and aspiring poet. The 10 letters are Rilke’s replies to Kappus’ inquiries and writings. As a whole, the letters are philosophical, initially revealing Rilke’s approach to writing, later his embrace of a life of “aloneness”. Rilke is extraordinarily appreciative of Kappus’ and seems to genuinely love him. He is also helpful to him regarding his writing.
There are better reviews out there, especially on the Amazon page. I’d like to share my favorite quotes from each letter.
- “For the creative artist there is no poverty–nothing is insignificant or unimportant.”
- “But beware of a viewpoint that is too consistently ironic; turn your attention to lofty and serious issues instead.”
- “To be an artist means not to compute or count: it means to ripen as the tree, which does not force its sap, but stands unshaken in the storms of spring with no fear that summer might not follow.”
- “Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language.”
- “There is much beauty here (Rome) because there is much beauty everywhere.”
- “Your innermost happening is worth all your love.”
- “For one human being to love another is perhaps the most difficult task of all, the epitome, the ultimate test.”
- “Perhaps all dragons in our lives are really princesses just waiting to see us just once being beautiful and courageous.”
- “Allow life to happen to you.”
- “With each encounter with truth one draws nearer to reaching communion with it, more than those in unreal, half-artistic careers–by pretending proximity to art, they actually deny and attack the existence of all art.”
There are many good lessons in this book. It is a worthwhile read for any pursuing any artistic endeavor as well as those struggling with loneliness, purpose, authenticity or clarity in their lives.