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Letters to a Young Poet (Modern Library) Hardcover – December 4, 2001

4.5 out of 5 stars 175 customer reviews

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  • Letters to a Young Poet (Modern Library)
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  • Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke (Modern Library) (English & German Edition) (English and German Edition)
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  • The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke (English and German Edition)
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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) --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; 1 edition (December 4, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679642323
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679642329
  • Product Dimensions: 4.9 x 0.6 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (175 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #213,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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By A Customer on October 24, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This book first came to my attention when a good friend of mine sent me a quote from it, which has since become my life quote ("Be patient toward everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves..Do not search for the answers which could not be given to you now because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything...Live the questions now")
Since I heard this quote, I tracked down a copy of the book after searching a half dozen bookstores and libraries, and it was worth every minute of work to find it. This book has been put on the highest level of appreciation in my mind, up there with Richard Bach's 'Illusion' and 'One'; my two other favorite books. Rilke's book was written for the artist; the person who wants to live life to its fullest and explore both the inner and outer world and their connections.
Although, as another reviewer said, this book will not be fully appreciated by all readers, it is a must read for everyone, especially those who appreciate spirituality, art and living.
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Format: Hardcover
A very good friend gave this book to me as I was struggling to find myself during my early college years. I was instantly amazed at how a book written over ninety years ago could be so precisely helpful to the many questions I was suffering with at the time. Rilke introduced me to the concept of solitude as a blessing. This idea has truly changed my life for the better as I have taken the time to step away from life and look inside for the answers I seek. If I had one gift to give someone I truly cared about, it would be this masterpiece. Although the contents of this book can not be appreciated by everyone, I challenge all to read it and see if it sparks the fire in them that it has brought to me.
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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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