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Letters to a Young Poet Mass Market Paperback – October 12, 1986

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Letters to a Young Poet + The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke (English and German Edition) + Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties: Translations and Considerations
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The common reader will be delighted by Stephen Mitchell’s new translation of that slim and beloved volume by Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet . . . the best yet."
--Los Angeles Times

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation)

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (October 12, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394741048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394741048
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.4 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

126 of 130 people found the following review helpful By Jaycel Adkins on October 2, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Written with a simple, elegant, and com(passionate) prose, Rainer Maria Rilke pens a series of letters to a young aspiring poet, Franz Xaver Kappus that contain a stunningly beautiful argument and plea for living an authentic life, that addresses the silent questions that exist in the deepest chambers of our hearts, the grand themes of literature, and hence life: the meaning of solitude and how to love.
The first letter gives the greatest advice anyone can give to someone aspiring to be anything. You have to ask yourself the following question: "must I?" If you answer in the affirmative, then "build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into it's humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse." That you must only judge Art by the following value, has it arisen out of necessity?
The second letter, he warns against the role of irony running through your life and one must guard against it by searching "into the depths of Things: there irony never descends."
The third letter argues that one must always trust in yourself and your own feelings. Do not fall victim to convention. Which is nothing more than unwillingness on each of our parts to not fully engage life, but rather to take what others have said and done as well-traveled roads to walk through life upon. For the person living a poetic life, "everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable...and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating."
The fourth letter argues for one to trust in Nature.
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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Neil W. Smith on March 19, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I find Stephen Mitchell's translation far superior to that if The New World Library. Compare this passage:

"Perhaps all dragons in our lives are really princesses just waiting to see us just once being beautiful and courageous."(NWL)

"Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are really princesses waiting for us to act, just once, with beauty and courage."(SM)

I only wish Miller's were as beautifully hard bound as NWL's.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By R. Schwartz on April 21, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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This book is a treasure of a man of solitude and poetic ability to FEEL life, not simply an intellectual exercise like 99% people in our so called "enlightened" world so do. It's amazing how insightful Rilke was at such a young age. And yet the world today, the power, control and politics currently live in a fundamentally thinking world of one-sided blindness that is so far apart from Rilke that it is like a regression of humanity of large and major proportion, and in such a short amount of time.
On solitude and the ability to be childlike (not childish), that is, living in the present moment in appreciation of what simply is, apart from all concepts, occupations and fundamental thinking and answers of security and certainty, Rilke writes:
"There is one solitude and that is great . . . a great inner solitude. Going into oneself and for hours meeting no one - this one must be able to attain. To be solitary, the way one was solitary as a child, when the grownups went around involved with things that seemed important and big because they themselves looked so busy . . . and when one day one perceives that their occupations are paltry, their professions petrified and no longer linked with (real) living . . Only the individual who is solitary is like a thing placed under profound laws, and when he goes out into the morning that is just beginning, or looks out into the evening that is full of happening . . . all status drops from him as a dead man, though he stands in the midst of sheer life. pp. 45-47
Rilke knew that life was creative, an art not grasped by criticism and intellectualism:
"Words of art are of an infinite loneliness and with nothing so little to be reached as with criticism. Only love can grasp and hold and be just toward them." p.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Allie Jones on November 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mitchell's is a mediocre translation, and does not match that of M.D. Herter Norton (Letters to a Young Poet), whose quintessential translation must be the standard for all others of Rilke's work. You cannot see these pages in the Look Inside feature, but the following famous passage in Letter 8 is an excellent example. "Mr. Kappus," the young poet, might as well be us, and the passage can be read without the words "dear Mr. Kappus" and stands alone -- at least in the M.D. Herter Norton translation.

M.D. Herter Norton's translation (Letters to a Young Poet) reads:

"How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are the beginning of all peoples? The myths about dragons that, at the last moment, turn into princesses. Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses, who are only waiting to see us, once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is, in its deepest being, something helpless that wants help from us. So, you must not be frightened, dear Mr. Kappus, if a sadness rises up before you, larger than any you have ever seen. If a restiveness like light and cloud-shadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening to you. That life has not forgotten you. That it holds you in its hand. It will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any agitation, any pain, any melancholy, since you do really do not know what these states are working upon you? ...
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