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Showing 1-10 of 247 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 349 reviews
on April 5, 2017
Whatever kind of writer or creative artist you are, Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet is a voice worth listening to. The letters were written in the early 1900s when Rilke was about 30 years old. He wrote ten letters to a young poet named Franz Kappus, offering not only advice but a philosophy on how to cultivate the creative spirit. As a fiction author with three novels out, I often get discouraged. We writers know that art and struggle go hand and hand. I’ve read all the pep blogs about following your passion and keeping the faith, recognizing the common Van Gogh blues, blah, blah, blah. Rilke’s book is such a refreshing look at why a person writes at all. He addresses doubt, loneliness vs solitude, love, and patience. This is probably one of the most impressive of books I’ve read on this subject. The thoughts in this little 100-page book is a true source and one to keep on the night stand. I love to open a page at random and see what Rilke has to say to me for the day. Page 61 told me this morning that “We must embrace struggle. Every living thing conforms to it. Everything in nature grows and struggles in its own way, establishing its own identity, insisting on it at all cost, against all resistance.” This book is for any artist who wants inspiration on how to live as an artist.
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on May 31, 2016
I loved it! It reminded of the literature I had to read many years ago, when I was in college. Notice I wrote the verb "had". I am feeling a little guilty of not appreciating the works I had to read, then, and puzzled, by how I admire them now. The content of these letters are timeless. "It is perhaps no use now to reply to your actual words; for what can I say about your disposition to doubt or about your inability to bring your outer and inner life into harmony, or about anything else that oppresses you-: it is always what I have said before; always the wish that you might be able to find patience enough in yourself to endure, and a single-heartedness enough to believe; that you might win increasing trust in what is difficult, and in your solitude among other people. And for the rest, let life happen to you. Believe me:life is right, at all events".I think it reads like a prayer.
I have no knowledge of the German Language, but if this translation conjures this kind of emotion, imagine the impact it should have on the reader that reads the original.
Thank you!
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on November 13, 2013
Louth's translation of Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet is a mediocre translation, does not match that of M.D. Herter Norton's (Letters to a Young Poet), whose quintessential translation must be the standard for all others of Rilke's work. You cannot see it the following 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), Letter 8, 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? ..."

Compare this to Charlie Louth's translation of this same passage in Letter 8 (Letters to a Young Poet):

"How can we forget those ancient myths found at the beginnings of all peoples? The myths about the dragons who at the last moment turn into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses, only waiting for the day when they will see us handsome and brave? Perhaps everything terrifying is deep down a helpless thing that needs our help. So, dear Mr. Kappus, you shouldn't be dismayed if a sadness rises up in front of you, greater than any you have ever seen before; or if a disquiet plays over your hands and over all your doings like light and cloud-shadow. You must think that something is happening with you; that life has not forgotten you; that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. Why should you want to exclude from your life all unsettling, all pain, all depression of spirit, when you don't know what work it is these states are performing within you? ... "

Note that word order in changed in by Louth to give a different meaning, and this is often the case.

Also, compare to Stephen Mitchell's translation of the passage in Letter 8 (Letters to a Young Poet (Modern Library) and (Letters to a Young Poet):

"How could we forget those ancient myths that stand the beginning of all the races, the myths about dragons that are at the last moment transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love. So you mustn't be frightened, dear Mr. Kappus, if a sadness rises up 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 to 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?...."

Really, "that wants our love"? Our LOVE? No reason for this translator's license, none at all. Mitchell's translation likewise strips the Letters of poetry, and, of note, his introduction to the Letters is somewhat bizarre.

If one goes further back in this letter, to Rilke's discussion of solitude, the demarcation between the beautiful and the mediocre translation is equally clear. I find M.D. Herter Norton's translation by far the most beautiful, poetic and meaningful, although reading other translations can add to the reader's understanding, or else, show the reader which translation speaks to him.

On the other hand, here is an opportunity to compare, free of charge, three translations. I have chosen to confine myself to the translation by M.D. Herter Norton's of Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, since I don't want to interrupt the flow of reading as I study these great letters, and feel it is best to choose one. It is a shame the M.D. Herter Norton translation is not currently in print in hardcover. Still, there are used copies to be found and I'd rather buy several paperback copies of Norton's than have a nice looking hardcover of a mediocre translation.
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on June 3, 2017
If you have a chance to write a letter to a younger self, what that letter is going to be about? Between 1903 and 1910, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote 10 letters to Franz Kappus, a young poet, on the matter of poetry, existence, love, truth, and solitude. The sequence of letters, which Mr. Kappus published three years after Rilke’s death, reflected overarching themes of Rilke’s creative development.

Politely declining to look at Mr. Kappus poems Rilke urges a young poet not to look for outside or the other person in order to fill that solitude rather exploring inside and embracing whatever comes his way. Rilke creates a framework how to become a genuine through recognizing Nature and Things around, listening to the inner self, and reflecting those. He also emphasizes the gift and burden of solitude making clear that it is not worth to be replaced by a cheap communication. “…there is only one solitude, and it is vast, heavy, difficult to bear, and almost everyone has hours when he would gladly exchange it for any kind of sociability, however trivial or cheap…” He asks a young poet to look at life and its different phenomena from the prism of solitude and not escaping it.

This tiny book is a must-read for anyone between age 20-35.
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on April 16, 2014
When I purchased this, I only knew I love the poetry of Rilke and that I had read many positive reviews of this compilation of his letters to a young poet.

I had no idea that this is a true chest of treasures. I purchased the Kindle version to go along with listening to this audiobook (the narration of which is outstanding). I kept placing bookmarks on the audible version and then highlighted the text in Kindle. This is quite a futile endeavor because, as I found, well over half deserves special emphasis.

I will share only my favorite quote, after saying that this book of letters, and particularly this translation into English, is worth a credit in my opinion for its encouragement of creativity and a love of life and for the testimonials from the great artists over the past decades who have been deeply and positively affected by these letters.

"... try, like the first human being, to say what you see and experience and love and lose. Don't write love poems; avoid at first those forms which are too familiar and habitual: they are the hardest, for you need great maturity and strength to produce something of your own in a domain where good and sometimes brilliant examples have been handed down to us in abundance. For this reason, flee general subjects and take refuge in those offered by your own day-to-day life; depict your sadnesses and desires, passing thoughts and faith in some kind of beauty--depict all this with intense, quiet, humble sincerity and make use of whatever you find about you to express yourself, the images from your dreams and the things in your memory. If your everyday life seems to lack material, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to summon up its riches, for there is no lack for him who creates and no poor, trivial place."
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on November 30, 2015
I really enjoyed this book. it’s interesting to watch as the story unfold through letters.

Really a great example illustrating the importance of mentorship. and reading the letters you really get close to the two writing these very intimate letters. its a very interesting dynamic.

The part I enjoyed the most is that it gives you perspective, cause the problems the student in the book goes through as the years go by, are problems we can all kinda identify with in some way. not just poets but all kinds of artist. and then comes the experienced teacher who has dealt with it all and in some cases still is, and he shares his wisdom.

The point of the book being that the journey of the artist is a universal one which we all must walk. But with shared knowledge and some help we can make it quicker and maybe avoid some of the more permanent pitfalls.

Just knowing your not alone is comforting and thats why I really enjoyed this book.
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on December 3, 2012
'You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must", then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.' ~Rainer Maria Rilke, 'Letters to a Young Poet'

This fascinating and poetic slender little tome is a collection of ten letters written from Rainer Maria Rilke to a young person trying to decide between a career as a writer or one in the army. I love Rilke. His heart is in evidence among the pages and phrase herein and this book was/is so beautiful to me. I need to buy the Letters to a Young Poet Kindle version, for my Kindle Paperwhite. 'Letters to a Young Poet' is a book that one can read, and re-read, over the course of a lifetime. The work may be most inspiring for creatives, particularly writers, yet the wisdom here is universal. A desire to be and do, whatever the life area, can be assessed by the wisdom contained herein. As Rilke queries the recipient of his letters, find out the reason that commands you to do something. Is this something you must do? If so, then "build your life in accordance with this necessity." ~Happy reading~*
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on December 4, 2015
Insightful, deep, and powerful. I have returned to it again and again, and depending upon where I am in my life, there is always something different that resonates with me. Can't recommend it highly enough. If you're even considering the purchase of this book and you've somehow made your way to reviews of it, you should absolutely get it. This is a book that I've probably given out a dozen copies of. If cost is a factor, I believe there is a Kindle version for 99 cents, and although there are a couple of typos in it, it's mostly on the mark. If you really love it, you can look into the Stephen Mitchell translation and see what he did with it. Certain phrasings in the different versions feel 'more perfect' to me. I'd give it a million stars if I could.
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on October 3, 2013
I ordered this book because Rilke's "The panther" is one of my favorite poems. I thought this book would give me an insight to who Rilke was and it sure did! I bought this book after my masters graduation and his words about life, conquering fears, and following your dreams were incredibly helpful. Letter 8 is an AMAZING letter and recommend you all to read it. I highlighted, underlined, and "smilied" the bejesus out of this short book.
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on April 16, 2013
Somehow, Amazon has linked this listing of this book with the WRONG version of the Kindle edition! If you want the Kindle edition translated by Stephen Mitchell, go here Letters to a Young Poet. Stephen Mitchell's translation is the best translation of this gem of a book. I have my graduate students read this book every year to examine their vocation of being artists of the world -- artists of life. Rilke, while discussing poetry, reveals a philosophy of living life with passion and daring. I re-read this text by Rilke every year, continually finding it refreshing and reinvigorating. A must for anyone's repertoire of life readings.
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