Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

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Rilke's timeless letters about poetry, sensitive observation, and the complicated workings of the human heart.

Born in 1875, the great German lyric poet Rainer Maria Rilke published his first collection of poems in 1898 and went on to become renowned for his delicate depiction of the workings of the human heart. Drawn by some sympathetic note in his poems, young people often wrote to Rilke with their problems and hopes. From 1903 to 1908 Rilke wrote a series of remarkable responses to a young, would-be poet on poetry and on surviving as a sensitive observer in a harsh world. Those letters, still a fresh source of inspiration and insight, are accompanied here by a chronicle of Rilke's life that shows what he was experiencing in his own relationship to life and work when he wrote them. 


About Rainer Maria Rilke

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More than any other modern German writer, Rainer Maria Rilke seems to match our romantic idea of what a poet should be, though, as with many writers, separating artistry from affectation is often difficult. Restless, sensitive, reverent, yet egotistical, Rilke often seems to hover in his poems like a sort of ethereal being. He was born in 1875 to a wealthy family in Prague. After a few years devoted to the study of art and literature, he spent most of his adult life wandering among the European capitals and devoting himself single-mindedly to poetry. His early poems reflect his interest in the visual and plastic arts, as he tries to lose himself in contemplation of objects such as an antique torso of Apollo.His later books of poetry, such as Duino Elegies (1923) and Sonnets to Orpheus (1923), on the contrary, focus intently on internal realms. The poetry of Rilke is noted, above all, for metaphysical and psychological nuances.
Published January 1, 1962 by Norton, 1962. 123 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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BC Books

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In these letters, written to a younger poet, who sought Rilke's guidance, Rilke chalks out his whole ideology of what poetry must be, and how a poet must reach above, beyond and deep within himself, to arrive at the inevitable verse, which is both timely and timeless, not only for himself but als...

Jul 24 2007 | Read Full Review of Letters to a Young Poet

Washington Independent Review of Books

Wilson’s Letters to a Young Scientist continues a long and important literary tradition of reflections on choosing one’s life work.Rainer Maria Rilke, the German poet, advised a young man seeking a literary career to expand his inner life and refine his judgment.

May 10 2013 | Read Full Review of Letters to a Young Poet

The New York Review of Books

Letters: Summer 1926 takes the reader into the hearts and minds of three of the twentieth century’s greatest poets at a moment of maximum emotional and creative pressure.

Oct 31 2001 | Read Full Review of Letters to a Young Poet

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