2016 Nonfiction Reading Challenge: Letters to a Young Poet

Title: Letters to a Young Poet
Author: Rainer Maria Rilke
Publisher: Start Publishing LLC
Published: March 13, 2013
ebook, 66 pages
Source: Bought


In 1903, Rilke replied in a series of 10 letters to a student who had submitted some verses to the well-known Austrian poet for an assessment. Written during an important stage in Rilke's artistic development, these letters contain many of the themes that later appeared in his best works. Essential reading for scholars, poetry lovers.

My Thoughts:

I've always been rather skittish about poetry. I blame my English-lit teacher for that. I have had many good teachers, but I've also had many not-so-great teachers as well. The reason for the blame game is that this particular teacher made me feel as though poetry were out of my reach, as if somehow only the cleverest of human beings could understand it. And there was only one way you could interpret a poem. Only one right answer. I've since learned that this way of thinking was wrong. Three people can read the same poem and see something entirely different in it. Every reader has a different experience.

But it wasn't until a few years ago that I read something along the lines of, "you don't have to understand and interpret every word of poetry to enjoy it." Anyway, that opened up a mental window for me and for the first time in a long time, it made me feel relaxed around poetry. 

This book, however, is not necessarily just about poetry, but about the poet Rilke and the advice he gives to the young poet Mr. Kappus. I've always been interested in the lives of authors and poets. I want to know what inspires them to write, their creative approach, and in general just their lives. I've heard Rilke's name throughout my literature-loving life, and this book has come up several times. I finally decided to read it on a whim. At sixty-six pages, it didn't take long to read.

This is one of those books that will inspire you. This is the kind of book that you give to graduates. This is the kind of book that you re-read every now and then. Rilke's powerful advice to Kappus can be applied to help explore the depths of creativity. I don't usually write in my books, and thank heaven this was an ebook, but I wanted to highlight and make notes on just about every page. This is a marvelous book that I recommend everyone read at least once in their life. Do it! You won't regret it.