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on June 21, 2015
One of the most thought-provoking books a writer will ever read. Short and thin but dense, a perfect gift for someone who loves literature and feels that few understand the inner longings of her soul. It will furnish yearbook quotations until the universe blinks out...
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on February 18, 2014
These are 10 letters that Rainer Maria Rilke sent in reply to a young man who began the correspondence with regard to his own poetry's worth.

I would very much like to read more from this man. Many, many things that he said (though not all) were deeply-profound and affecting, one quote by him in particular was relevant and moving in my life right now, and so I am thankful to have been able to read such words as his. His perspective, even where mine differed, engaged me in deep and interesting thought.

"To express yourself, use the things that surround you, the pictures of your dreams and the objects of your recollections. When your daily life seems barren, do not blame it; blame yourself rather and tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for the creative worker knows no barrenness and no poor indifferent place."

"And when from this turning inwards, from this retreat into your own world, verses come into being, then you will not think of asking anyone, whether they are good verses."

"You cannot disturb [your course of development] more drastically than if you direct your thoughts outwards and expect from without the answer to questions which probably only your innermost feeling in the quietest hour of your life can answer."

"Attach yourself to Nature, to the simple and small in her, which hardly anyone sees, but which can so unexpectedly turn into the great and the immeasurable."

"Ripen like a tree which does not force its sap, but in the storms of spring stands confident without being afraid that afterwards no summer may come."

It makes me long for such meaningful correspondence with another, and I think that all artists should glimpse upon these words, for the book is short, but will last beyond the pages.

"And for the rest, let life happen to you. Believe me, life is right in every case."

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on August 15, 2013
I loved reading this part in his letters:

So you mustn't be frightened, dear Mr. Kappus, if a sadness rises in front of you, larger than any you have ever seen; if an anxiety, like light and cloud-shadows, moves over your hands and over everything you do. You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don't know what work these conditions are doing inside you? Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where all this is coming from and where it is going? Since you know, after all, that you are in the midst of transitions and you wished for nothing so much as to change. If there is anything unhealthy in your reactions, just bear in mind that sickness is the means by which an organism frees itself from what is alien; so one must simply help it to be sick, to have its whole sickness and to break out with it, since that is the way it gets better. In you, dear Mr. Kappus, so much is happening now; you must be patient like someone who is sick, and confi dent like someone who is recovering; for perhaps you are both. And more: you are also the doctor, who has to watch over himself. But in every sickness there are many days when the doctor can do nothing but wait. And that is what you, insofar as you are your own doctor, must now do, more than anything else.

Rilke knew there were inner meanings and messages to illness. He might never have gained this wisdom if illness were never experienced. We should not waste away our sorrows as they produce an eternal weight of glory as the Bible teaches me in 2 Corinthians 4:17.
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on July 6, 2013
Although from a different time and culture,
Rilke's mentoring counsel and advice are
still relevant. I was so impressed I gave
copies to two grandkids on the graduation
from university.
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on May 23, 2013
This may be one of the shortest artistic self-help books out there--which is all the more reason to chew and digest it. These beautiful literary keepsakes from a bygone age of penmanship apply first and foremost to poetry--that most anti-commercial of art forms--yet should also provide valuable guidance to any young person setting out on the uncertain path of creativity.

Some of the thoughts, such as the necessity of self-reliance and introspection for the artist, will not come as any great surprise; Rilke's admonishment that "There is only one single way. Go into yourself" echoes Polonius's oft-quoted advice to Laertes, "To thine own self be true." Rilke's cautions against absorbing too much criticism, the importance of taking the difficult path, and the crucial role of solitude in artistic formation are also no great surprise. But it is the passion and certainty with which Rilke states these things, and the captivating way he phrases them, that makes this slim collection of epistles such a gold mine.

And he does get down to the core: his most urgent, most piercing question for anyone contemplating making a life of creativity, is this: "This above all--ask yourself in the stillest hour of the night: _must_ I write?"

For if on can, as he says, delve deep into oneself for the answer, and it is Yes, then the rest is details.
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on June 18, 1999
A simply beautiful book. I highly recommend it to those who love the written word.
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on June 10, 2013
I wonder why I have not read Rilke before? Perhaps because it wasn't time - my time.

Rilke believed we should sit with our questions and feel the discomfort they generally elicit instead of rushing to resolve that which we as yet do not understand. He advised his young protégé to seek solitude and experience life in Nature by carefully observing the simplest of beauties in the landscape about him. The answers will come. His gently gracious observations about the young poet's work was without cruel criticism which he did not believe was possible for how can one judge another's truth? Instead, Rilke encouraged living life intentionally and patiently waiting on the words. (less)
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on June 30, 2015
One of my all-time favorite books. Really comforting, insightful, and beautifully written.
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on June 28, 2014
I read this in college with underlinings and notes and tears because I felt as if he were speaking directly to me and only to me. I was young, I understood his passion and encouragement and warnings yet his genuine pleasure and the honest progression of his student. Who was the student and who was the teacher. What a joy to be a fly on the wall in this incredible interchange. It changed by life. So unpretentious. I am inspired and continue to be my whole life. A thin book, easy read it hits you in the gut. And that my friend is the beginning of good writing.
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on August 14, 2014
I've bought this book 2...maybe 3 times. I love Rainer Maria Rilke's work, and end up underlining and highlighting this book every time I come across a beautiful quotation and then lending the book out to friends. Strongly recommend to any fans of Rilke's works, or someone who would like to be a part of a beautiful conversation about love, life, and poetry.
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