Letters To A Young Poet

Hardcover | December 4, 2001

byRainer Maria RilkeTranslated byStephen Mitchell

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Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet are arguably the most famous and beloved letters of the twentieth century. Written when the poet was himself still a young man, with most of his greatest work before him, they were addressed to a student who had sent Rilke some of his own writing, asking for advice on becoming a writer. The two never met, but over a period of several years Rilke wrote him these ten letters, which have been cherished by hundreds of thousands of readers for what Stephen Mitchell calls in his Foreword the "vibrant and deeply felt experience of life" that informs them. Eloquent and personal, Rilke’s meditations on the creative process, the nature of love, the wisdom of children, and the importance of solitude offer a wealth of spiritual and practical guidance for anyone. At the same time, this collection, in Stephen Mitchell’s definitive translation, reveals the thoughts and feelings of one of the greatest poets and most distinctive sensibilities of the twentieth century.

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From the Publisher

Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet are arguably the most famous and beloved letters of the twentieth century. Written when the poet was himself still a young man, with most of his greatest work before him, they were addressed to a student who had sent Rilke some of his own writing, asking for advice on becoming a writer. The two never met...

From the Jacket

Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet are arguably the most famous and beloved letters of the twentieth century. Written when the poet was himself still a young man, with most of his greatest work before him, they were addressed to a student who had sent Rilke some of his own writing, asking for advice on becoming a writer. The two never met...

Rainer Marie Rilke, the great Austro-German poet, was the author of many works including Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus.Stephen Mitchell's translations include Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of Job, Tao Te Ching, and, most recently, Bhagavad-Gita. He lives in California.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:128 pages, 7.56 × 4.93 × 0.59 inPublished:December 4, 2001Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0679642323

ISBN - 13:9780679642329

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Customer Reviews of Letters To A Young Poet

Reviews

Rated 1 out of 5 by from Generic Letters to any Young, Aspiring Writer I have of course, heard of Rilke, but I have never read any of his books. Oddly, disappointed as I was by this book, it makes me curious to see what supposedly made him a writer of note. There was nothing wrong with the book, but it wasn't very inspiring for me; it was a little trite. The young man's letters and his poetry are not included in the book (it is ridiculously thin), only Rilke's letters, so you don't know how Rilke came to his opinions of the poet. He was quite honest, though, which surprised me. He said he didn't see anything unique or special about the young writer's work, yet. Rilke told the man he had to 'really believe in something passionately' to be a great writer, which is one of the many stock platitudes sprinkled throughout the book- or should I say manual? I've found cable set-up instructions that were weightier tomes than this anorexic volume.
Date published: 2008-08-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful With the advancement of internet and emails, it is so easy to get in touch with our friends or even strangers in a heartbeat. Reflecting on the Letters to a young poet, I am amazed at the power of ten thoughtful and sincere letters (and handwritten at the time!!) in inspiring and transforming life and core of aspiring artists. This is a must to all who wish to be more spiritual and heart-felt in their creative work. Actually, for anyone who share the feeling of a deep something which dwells inside our hearts. This book is no simple work of inspiration, but a piece of art from a mind of wisdom and experience.
Date published: 2008-06-15

Extra Content

Read from the Book

ParisFebruary 17, 1903Dear Sir,Your letter arrived just a few days ago. I want to thank you for the great confidence you have placed in me. That is all I can do. I cannot discuss your verses; for any attempt at criticism would be foreign to me. Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism: they always result in more or less fortunate misunderstandings. Things aren't all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsayable than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, who life endures beside our own small, transitory life.With this note as a preface, may I just tell you that your verses have no style of their own, although they do have silent and hidden beginnings or something personal. I feel this most clearly in the last poem, "My Soul." There, something of your own is trying to become word and melody. And in the lovely poem "To Leopardi" a kind of kinship with that great, solitary figure does perhaps appear. Nevertheless, the poems are not yet anything in themselves, not yet anything independent, even the last one and the one to Leopardi. Your kind letter, which accompanied them, managed to make clear to me various fault that I felt in reading your verses, though I am not able to name them specifically. 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 you 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 root 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 is 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.

Editorial Reviews

"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