Letters to a Young Poet

Late in his life, the Czech great poet Rainer Maria Rilke maintained a correspondence with a young poet, Franz Xaver Krappus through his well-known ten letters.  While in military academy, Young Franz full of passion and deep-seated appreciation for good poetry, on reading a collection of Rilke’s poetry, decided to send Rilke some of his poetry for Rilke to read and offer some advice in form of commendations and criticisms. The correspondence was thoughtful and filled within insight in various life themes, with profound messages for every one. It began in lasted from 1902 to 1908 and in June, 1929 three years after Rilke’s death, Franz gathered and published the letters in Berlin.
Frank’ introduction of the letters detailed his encounter with the writings of Rilke while he was in the Military Academy, Vienna. He interacted with Professor Horacek who talked to him about the life of Rilke as a gifted serious gentle calm and introverted fellow while in the same academy who was dedicated to his training; Rilke continued his education at home in Prague when he could not cope in his new school away from the military academy.
Through this correspondence, one understands the life of Rilke within the sentences he sent to this young poet. There is a hint to the transformation that he undergoes the principles that guide his life and how these changes influence his writing.

The progression in the life of Rilke is visible in the letters sent to this 19-year old poet: his life is based on the finding of the direction of the inner pursuit; answering the basic question of life and then wait until the inner voice speaks with a bold answer. This is his opinion of the foundation of a viable career. He believes in the power of reading to build a strong writing career: good writers read and good readers write. To approach productive reading, it is important to come with an open mind and be ready to love the work. This is how best to understand writings and be in the best position to criticize them if need be.
The central theme is love. He understands the difficulty associated with loving. He tells the young poet about the travail of learning how to love. He leaves him with the advice: keep learning. Sadness, aloneness also show in his write-up. This conflict with love may reflect the hitches he experiences in his family life, and why he seldom mentions his family. As an introvert, this is allowed. Rilke’s search for solitude is important in discovering the pace and direction of the inner man: this is a major theme of his life. This also keeps him away from the pressures of the outside world and its attendant conflicts. Let’s take a look at the letters:
Letter One: ‘There is only one way: Go within. Search for the cause, find the impetus that bids you write.’ He writes this to advice Franz about life career starting with an introspective search for discovery of the true reason for essence in life. This letter shows the basis for his life pursuit and advice for the young poet on career choice.
Letter Two: Live awhile within these books.  Learn of them, whatever seems worth the learning, but above all, love them.  To live within the books is to be able learn, and to love them is the way to be open to its lessons and make appropriate life changes as required.
Letter Three: Let me ask you right here to read as little as possible of aesthetic critiques.  It shows his distaste for criticisms that are not appreciative of the exclusive work of arts. Love is a prerequisite for true criticism.
Letter Four: Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language.  Do not now look for the answers.   They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them.  The questions that arise in life do not come with answers by merely asking but until the questions are incorporated into daily living; that’s where they get answered.
Letter Five: There is much beauty here because there is much beauty everywhere. Life is beauty, it al depends on what you see not where you are.
Letter Six: Why don’t you think of him as the coming one, who has been at hand since eternity, the future one, the final fruit of a tree, with us as its leaves? Live your life knowing there would be pain, but you still joy.
Letter Seven: To love is also good, for love is difficult. For one human being to love another is perhaps the must difficult task of all, the epitome, the ultimate test. This letter was explicit on love, and detailed the enigmatic way he sees and experienced love.
Letter Eight: And this is the reason the sadness passes: the something new within us, the thing that has joined us, has entered our heart, has gone into its innermost chamber and is no longer there either– it is already in the blood.
Letter Nine: Your doubt can become a good attribute if you discipline it. It must become a knowing; it must become the critic. This gives advice on how to turn doubt to a useful tool in life and career.
Letter Ten: Art also is only a way of life, and we can, no matter how we live, and without knowing it, prepare ourselves for it. He admonishes the Young Franz about the existence of art; he asserts that that art is part of us and our lives whether we accept the fact or not.
Rainer Maria Rilke. Letters to a young poet
Letters to a young poet. Accessed from
Letters to a young poet. Accessed from
Rilke’s writing.


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