Customer Reviews: Letters to a Young Poet
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VINE VOICEon July 12, 2004
I have read, re-read and generally mutilated my copy of Rainier Maria Rilke's "Letters To A Young Poet". Rarely does a day go by without me thinking of Rilke's Nietzschean, no-holds-barred philosophy of the real poet. For him, a poet is no simply one who writes verses or rhymes words: it is a different kind of human being who embraces not only beauty and happinesss but suffering and misfortune. His thoughts on solitude are absolutely indispensable. Any artist or aspiring artist who has ever been in a fruitless relationship ("loss of the self" is a theme he explores almost obsessively) will realize that Rilke is writing through experience on the necessity of a good amount of solitude, both spiritual and physical, to create art. He is achingly honest to the poet with whom he is conversing, and passionately sincere. He knows that not every poet is a poet, and that some will find the Promethean task far too exhausting to actually go through with it: the real artist is the one who has no choice in the matter. His inner demons or angels will not ALLOW him to stop writing. Bukowski's thoughts on the matter are similar, as are most major writers and artist. This is a demanding, unforgiving collection of letters. Rilke has no patience for weakness or dilly dallying. But it is more inspiring than any self-help book on the shelf. This should be nationally distributed, not only for artists but for human beings as a whole.
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on February 11, 2006
Rilke's words are so counterintuitive in this day and age. When he speaks of love it is not with urgency and grand passion - rather, it is with a sense of duty and open acceptance of hardship. When he speaks of solitude, he acknowledges its difficulty but stresses its absolute necessity. When he speaks of self-realization, he refers not to arrival at answers but love of the questions themselves. And when he speaks of writing, he approaches it with reverence and a sense of enormity, saying that it is a vocation which must be patiently and cautiously cultivated.

All of these things he discusses with incredible wisdom and lucidity. For anyone feeling the multiplicity of strains the outside world can impose, Rilke centers, assures, and illuminates.
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on February 12, 2001
A fine transition from German to English (A-, A+ being Mitchell's translation of the poems), nevertheless no one should be afraid of buying this particular translation. It is sensitive to what Rilke wanted to say and says it in about as good English as you could get from such magnificent language.
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on April 8, 1999
I read this book when I was 18. A friend of mine recomended it to me. It was a great surprise from the first line. I read it in an afternoon, and could not forget it. All the phrases of advice were as if they had been written to me, as if my fears and lonely thoughts were there answered, in a poetic way, in a different way of looking at the importance to little things that usually are lost in this way of rapid movement
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on February 16, 2007
Letters to a Young Poet is a short read that you can run your eyes and your soul over again and again! But just because it is a short read does not mean it has to be a quick read. Rilke's words were so rich and full that I had to read his letters slowly. I found I enjoyed savoring his beautifully sculpted words even though part of me wished to devour them.

Mr. Kappus, a young poet struggling with life in military school, discovers that he is enrolled in the same military school that Rilke used to attend. Therefore, he decides to seek Rilke's advice and opinions in his poetic endeavors through written correspondence. This book is a compilation of ten letters Rilke sends in response to Mr. Kappus's letters. After the letters themselves, the book builds background context to the letters by informing the reader about Rilke's life and state of mind during the time these letters were written.

I found this book inspiring and saddening at the same time. It isn't really the advice Rilke offers that I value and enjoy so much. My love for this collection of letters stems from the incredible word pictures that Rilke paints in my head and his touchingly sincere style of writing. For example he paints a visual of patience with, "Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer." His words stir something in the heart.

He writes with such intensity and depth that you can see each lesson taught and each thought that is shared has been earned at a high cost to the writer. He speaks to the young poet on solitude and patience for which he has himself been battling to achieve. As I read, I began to feel that maybe he is actually advising and encouraging himself as much as Mr. Kappus through writing these letters.

At first I didn't really find the ending section of the book on the life of Rilke very interesting. In fact, it bored me until I got to the background of about Rilke's sixth letter which contained more of Rilke's own words from correspondence he had with other people. But when I went back and read the letters again, I saw even more depth and emotion in them revealed by the context built in that ending biographical section.

This is one of those books I'd keep handy for repeated reading. The reason I rated the book a 4 instead of 5 is because I don't know if this book is for everyone. I really enjoyed it, and I truly believe most will. But I could see some that will read it and just not find the beauty in it. If you love the magnitude of words, this book is for you. Drink it deeply and enjoy!
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on May 30, 2000
The letters to a young poet are a piece of advise for everybody who is dissatisfied with his life or who maybe just wants to widen its horizon. It is a book that you should read in a period of your life, where you are able to have time for solitude. This book is the embodiement of impressionistic ideas. It is a very personal book and therefore I do not feel able to give a general recommendation and I would also not say that it is a book full of great wisdoms( there are very few of those) but it is a book that shows possible ways of reaching a deeper feeling of life. And it is a book which is full of the wonderfully chosen words of this great great poet: Rainer Maria Rilke
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on July 6, 2004
"Letters to a Young Poet" is a very small book that allows us to enjoy the correspondence between a famous writer and an aspiring poet. This exchange of letters began in 1903 thanks to a missive that Franz Xaver Kappus sent to R. M. Rilke, and continued for many years, until 1908.

Why is this little book important?. Because it allows us to read what Rilke thought about many subjects, for example life, poetry, and art. And because, as F. X. Kappus said, "when a prince is going to speak, silence must be made".

Kappus wanted to share the insights that Rilke gave him, and thus compiled his missives in "Letters to a young poet". The letters are few, and not overly long, but in this case the knowledge offered is certainly greater than the number of pages.

It is easier to show you what I mean by giving you an example... For instance, what Rilke's advices Franz to do, when he tells him to: "Go into yourself and test the deeps in which your life takes rise; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create. Accept it, just as it sounds, without inquiring into it. Perhaps it will turn out that you are called to be an artist".

On the whole, I highly recommend this book to everybody. It will probably be more useful to aspiring writers, but people who simply enjoy literature will delight in it too :)

Belen Alcat
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on September 14, 2003
Letters to a Young Poet has become a classic since it first appeared back in the 1930's. Most everyone knows what the book is and is about, so I won't bore you with lengthy explanations of such. Simply put - it is a collection of letters from Rilke to a poet that wrote asking Rilke to look at his poems and tell the youth what he thought of them.
Every writer should read the first letter in the book. Every writer. It contains the most poignant statement he makes in all ten letters by far:
"This above all - ask yourself in the stillest hour of the night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple 'I must,' then build your life according to this necessity..."
This advice, given to one writer a century ago, is still one of the truest wisdoms all writers must adhere to.
The other nine letters offer some other pearls of wisdom concerning writing and life - also a glimpse into the man that Rilke was. But they do not match the power and depth of that first letter, which I read and re-read every week. Committing it to memory.
Must I write? I must.
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on June 12, 2005
I have read this book in Japanese translation. Although Japanese is not the best language to adopt Western languages or ideas, the beauty of Rilke's writings and thoughts still came through well. Literary comments have already been made by the other reviewers, so I won't get into it.

What impressed me so much was the incredible warmth and compassion shown toward Kappus in all these letters. He gives Kappus very honest, deep, intellectual, yet straight forward (sometimes correctional) advice in a loving and humble way. Throughout, he is never harsh or judgmental.

His advice varies from poetry and art to life's difficulties, problems Kappus was facing at work or with his work, love, sex, human relationships and loneliness. Many of the issues that Kappus was facing are similar to what we face today, so these letters can be very valuable, and applicable, to us all. He writes in a very personal way which makes you feel that he is writing to you, as if he were your own dear friend. Really, I wish I had a friend like him!

His words are beautiful and noble, full of wisdom and love, and so are his thoughts and ideas that they'll take you to a higher plane.

It also taught me how to give advice to my own friends who often tell me about their own troubles.

It is a must read for both mature people and young people. It will be your great loss if you don't read it!
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on April 9, 2003
This book was a gift from a friend at a time when I was in need of doing some soul searching. Rilke's words draw deep into your core and stir thoughts and emotions you never thought possible. His thoughts and philosophies on mankind, nature, love and one's self are beauty in their purist form. I read this book from time to time to renew my faith in mankind and myself.
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