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One of the most important books I've ever read
on 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.