Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

Review by Fiona in Year 13

Library age rating: KS4 (Year 10+)

Genre: poetry, classics, philosophy

Plot summary

This is a collection of letters exchanged between Rilke and a young poet called Franz Kappus. The two wrote to each other over a two-year period, during which they discussed the importance of loyalty to one’s creative vision, the idea of the poet as apprentice, the primacy of living a fulfilling life, and the role of solitude in the creative process.

Positives

The writing is fluid and wonderfully poetic, and I found myself often moved to tears by Rilke's sheer love for his craft.

Negatives

Rilke's writing did slide into sententious, wide generalisations at times.

Fiona's tip for reading this work

When Rilke sweeps into the abstract, try to pause and digest what he is saying before proceeding, otherwise you may get washed away in the tides of his thought.

 Reading recommendations

For some beautiful poetry, I would highly recommend the works of Fernando Pessoa, Emily Dickinson, and Mary Jean Chan. If you want to read more about the importance of solitude when writing (and how this relates to gender and socio-economic conditions), 'A Room of One's Own' by Virginia Woolf is a short but powerful read.