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Letters to a Young Poet Paperback


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Frequently Bought Together

Letters to a Young Poet + Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties: Translations and Considerations + The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke (English and German Edition)
Price for all three: $37.89

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 123 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Revised edition (August 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393310396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393310399
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It would take a deeply cynical heart not to fall in love with Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet. At the end of this millennium, his slender book holds everything a student of the century could want: the unedited thoughts of (arguably) the most important European poet of the modern age. Rilke wrote these 10 sweepingly emotional letters in 1903, addressing a former student of one of his own teachers. The recipient was wise enough to omit his own inquiries from the finished product, which means that we get a marvelously undiluted dose of Rilkean aesthetics and exhortation.

The poet prefaced each letter with an evocative notation of the city in which he wrote, including Paris, Rome, and the outskirts of Pisa. Yet he spends most of the time encouraging the student in his own work, delivering a sublime, one-on-one equivalent of the modern writing workshop:

Go into yourself and test the deeps in which your life takes rise; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create. Accept it, just as it sounds, without inquiring into it. Perhaps it will turn out that you are called to be an artist. Then take that destiny upon yourself and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what recompense might come from outside.
Every page is stamped with Rilke's characteristic grace, and the book is free of the breathless effect that occasionally mars his poetry. His ideas on gender and the role of the artist are also surprisingly prescient. And even his retrograde comment on the "beauty of the virgin" (which the poet derives from the fact that she "has not yet achieved anything") is counterbalanced by his perception that "the sexes are more related than we think." Those looking for an alluring image of the solitary artist--and for an astonishing quotient of wisdom--will find both in Letters to a Young Poet. --Jennifer Buckendorff

Review

"...I cannot think of a better book to put into the hands of any young would-be poet, as an inspirational guide to poetry and to surviving as a poet in a hostile world." Harry Fainlight, The Times

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Customer Reviews

On the whole, I highly recommend this book to everybody.
M. B. Alcat
I have read, re-read and generally mutilated my copy of Rainier Maria Rilke's "Letters To A Young Poet".
J from NY
Rilke's words are magic as they weave an image of solitude, love, life, and art.
Andi Miller

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By J from NY VINE VOICE on July 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have read, re-read and generally mutilated my copy of Rainier Maria Rilke's "Letters To A Young Poet". Rarely does a day go by without me thinking of Rilke's Nietzschean, no-holds-barred philosophy of the real poet. For him, a poet is no simply one who writes verses or rhymes words: it is a different kind of human being who embraces not only beauty and happinesss but suffering and misfortune. His thoughts on solitude are absolutely indispensable. Any artist or aspiring artist who has ever been in a fruitless relationship ("loss of the self" is a theme he explores almost obsessively) will realize that Rilke is writing through experience on the necessity of a good amount of solitude, both spiritual and physical, to create art. He is achingly honest to the poet with whom he is conversing, and passionately sincere. He knows that not every poet is a poet, and that some will find the Promethean task far too exhausting to actually go through with it: the real artist is the one who has no choice in the matter. His inner demons or angels will not ALLOW him to stop writing. Bukowski's thoughts on the matter are similar, as are most major writers and artist. This is a demanding, unforgiving collection of letters. Rilke has no patience for weakness or dilly dallying. But it is more inspiring than any self-help book on the shelf. This should be nationally distributed, not only for artists but for human beings as a whole.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By kjgrow on February 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
Rilke's words are so counterintuitive in this day and age. When he speaks of love it is not with urgency and grand passion - rather, it is with a sense of duty and open acceptance of hardship. When he speaks of solitude, he acknowledges its difficulty but stresses its absolute necessity. When he speaks of self-realization, he refers not to arrival at answers but love of the questions themselves. And when he speaks of writing, he approaches it with reverence and a sense of enormity, saying that it is a vocation which must be patiently and cautiously cultivated.

All of these things he discusses with incredible wisdom and lucidity. For anyone feeling the multiplicity of strains the outside world can impose, Rilke centers, assures, and illuminates.
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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful By E. M. Dale on February 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
A fine transition from German to English (A-, A+ being Mitchell's translation of the poems), nevertheless no one should be afraid of buying this particular translation. It is sensitive to what Rilke wanted to say and says it in about as good English as you could get from such magnificent language.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read this book when I was 18. A friend of mine recomended it to me. It was a great surprise from the first line. I read it in an afternoon, and could not forget it. All the phrases of advice were as if they had been written to me, as if my fears and lonely thoughts were there answered, in a poetic way, in a different way of looking at the things...giving importance to little things that usually are lost in this way of rapid movement
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By M. B. Alcat on July 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
"Letters to a Young Poet" is a very small book that allows us to enjoy the correspondence between a famous writer and an aspiring poet. This exchange of letters began in 1903 thanks to a missive that Franz Xaver Kappus sent to R. M. Rilke, and continued for many years, until 1908.

Why is this little book important?. Because it allows us to read what Rilke thought about many subjects, for example life, poetry, and art. And because, as F. X. Kappus said, "when a prince is going to speak, silence must be made".

Kappus wanted to share the insights that Rilke gave him, and thus compiled his missives in "Letters to a young poet". The letters are few, and not overly long, but in this case the knowledge offered is certainly greater than the number of pages.

It is easier to show you what I mean by giving you an example... For instance, what Rilke's advices Franz to do, when he tells him to: "Go into yourself and test the deeps in which your life takes rise; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create. Accept it, just as it sounds, without inquiring into it. Perhaps it will turn out that you are called to be an artist".

On the whole, I highly recommend this book to everybody. It will probably be more useful to aspiring writers, but people who simply enjoy literature will delight in it too :)

Belen Alcat
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By sander on May 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
The letters to a young poet are a piece of advise for everybody who is dissatisfied with his life or who maybe just wants to widen its horizon. It is a book that you should read in a period of your life, where you are able to have time for solitude. This book is the embodiement of impressionistic ideas. It is a very personal book and therefore I do not feel able to give a general recommendation and I would also not say that it is a book full of great wisdoms( there are very few of those) but it is a book that shows possible ways of reaching a deeper feeling of life. And it is a book which is full of the wonderfully chosen words of this great great poet: Rainer Maria Rilke
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By KTB on September 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
Letters to a Young Poet has become a classic since it first appeared back in the 1930's. Most everyone knows what the book is and is about, so I won't bore you with lengthy explanations of such. Simply put - it is a collection of letters from Rilke to a poet that wrote asking Rilke to look at his poems and tell the youth what he thought of them.
Every writer should read the first letter in the book. Every writer. It contains the most poignant statement he makes in all ten letters by far:
"This above all - ask yourself in the stillest hour of the night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple 'I must,' then build your life according to this necessity..."
This advice, given to one writer a century ago, is still one of the truest wisdoms all writers must adhere to.
The other nine letters offer some other pearls of wisdom concerning writing and life - also a glimpse into the man that Rilke was. But they do not match the power and depth of that first letter, which I read and re-read every week. Committing it to memory.
Must I write? I must.
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