Letters To A Young Poet, By Rainer Maria Rilke

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The Independent Culture

A letter written to Rilke by a young man entering a military career who secretly wished to become a poet himself forms the basis of this slim, jewel of a volume of ten letters, written in response by the Bohemian-Austrian poet over six years in the early 1900s when he was still cementing his reputation.

Translated by Charlie Louth, it embodies Rilke's poetics and has since become one of his best-read works. Rilke suggests that one should turn to writing only if it is absolutely necessary, and then to embrace a lifetime's solitude: "What is needed is this, and this alone: solitude, great inner loneliness."

The letters capture an enduring warmth and wisdom (be patient, he advises, write as if you have an eternity) that will give heart to aspiring poets today.