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Letters to a Young Poet Paperback – May 4, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 76 pages
  • Publisher: BN Publishing (May 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1607960265
  • ISBN-13: 978-1607960263
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #843,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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68 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Lewis Hyde on September 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
Rilke's letters to Franz Kappus were written between 1903 and 1908. They were first published in German in 1929. In 1934 H. D. Herter Norton produced the first English translation (revised by her in 1954). The second English translation that I know of was done by Reginald Snell in 1945 and published in London by Sidgwick and Jackson. The edition being offered here is the Snell translation--only his name and the original publication data have been stripped from the book. (Other than that, the book is essentially a photocopy of the 1945 edition.)

The publisher here is "BN Publishing" which I assume means "Barnes & Noble" (although the "about us" link on their website says almost nothing about them!).

The Snell translation seems to me quite adequate. Here is a sample of one sentence done by three translators:

"And this more human love...will resemble that which we are preparing with struggle and toil, the love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other." -- H. D. Herter Norton (1934)

"And this more human love...will be something like that which we are preparing with struggle and toil, the love which consists in the mutual guarding, bordering and saluting of two solitudes." -- Reginald Snell (1945)

"And this more human love... will resemble what we are now preparing painfully and with great struggle: the love that consists in this: that two solitudes protect and border and greet each other." -- Stephen Mitchell (1984)

Of these three, the Norton seems to me to have the best cadence, but beyond that Rilke's sense is present in all.

One does wonder, however, why BN Publishing felt free to erase this book's origins.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Kimarie Torre on July 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
-Whenever I feel the weight of the world upon my shoulders...
-Whenever I'm overwhelmed by the noise, violence and sorrows of the world...
-Whenever I am deceiving my true nature...
-Whenever I lose touch with my artistic spirit...

I reach for this book and it helps me find my way back to that quiet place inside, reminding me that 'feeling' alone is not the same as 'being' alone and that our solitude is a gift.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Ben on February 11, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
This is probably my favorite book (or whatever you'd like to call it - thing between two covers) of all time. I can't recommend it enough.

That said, the Kindle version is indefensibly poorly-done. There are paragraph breaks, and that's the extent of its formatting. The book should be outstandingly simple to format correctly. It's an introduction followed by ten letters. However, this version simply runs together, making it difficult to read and parse through. Purchase the physical version. You'll be glad you did.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca M on September 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
There are works that surface time and time again in cultural circles, in film, literature, music, etc. One of these is Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet. The young poet, Franz Xaver Kappus, is unremarkable in this set of letters as we never see the poems he sent to Rilke, nor do we see his end of the correspondence. Yet, what Kappus realizes, and so too the reader, is that his offerings are absolutely unnecessary because we see them through Rilke's eyes. Rilke readily assumes the mantle of humble mentor, dispensing pearls of wisdom in a language that teaches the young Kappus that not all poetry is written in stanzas.

One wonders if Rilke was indeed writing to the world. His replies to Kappus are lofty but sincere, and filled with passages that seem destined for quotation:

"Do not search now for the answers which cannot be given you because you could not live them. It is a matter of living everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, one distant day live right into the answer."

For Rilke, bite-size gifts of mature sophistry (in the Classical sense of the word) will not suffice. In these letters to Kappus, Rilke seizes the opportunity to work out his own philosophy through provocative and probing questions. We learn that Kappus, during the course of his military service, has lost faith in God, and Rilke asks him, "Is it not much rather the case that you have never yet possessed him? ... Do you believe a child can hold him, him whom men bear only with difficulty, whose weight bows down on the aged?" Rilke is ready to be not only a literary mentor, but a theological counselor.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Brian S. Reed on November 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
"Confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write." These words have challenged many young aspiring writers since they were written in the early 1900's. Rilke's ten letters to Mr. Kappus are pithy, endearing, and challenging. We are taken far beyond the banalities of technique, syntax, and grammar. Rilke speaks to the keening of a writer's soul. He inspires a person to live the unresolved questions in their hearts. In these letters we come to understand that writing is not a profession. Rather, it is a way of living. It is observation, it is a constantly changing perspective, it is spiritual, and it is solitary.

These ten letters contain exhortations to disciplines not often taught in the classroom. It is a breviary for the writer, indeed for all artists who easily get lost in their own imaginings. When our own generations are looking for quick fixes and easy means to and end, Rilke states, "for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be one more reason to do it. It is also good to love; because love is difficult." He rightly challenges us that to attain anything of value it must come with devotion and sacrifice.

After reading and rereading this book many times throughout my life as a writer, I can say that I am still moved and inspired by Rilke's sagacity and acumen. Letters to a Young Poet is a treatise on how to not only discover one's creative nature, but to forever hone one's instincts and craft.
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