Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
3 words: philosophical, quotable, introspective
Well, I did kind of a dumb thing when reading this book. I tore right through it.
And while this is a sign that I’m loving a book, it’s also a sign that I’m going to be left with a wispy but happy recall of a reading experience. And that’s definitely the case with this one.
My faint recall (already) is this:
Letters to a Young Poet is a lyrical, thoughtful, and encouraging treatise on the creative life.
And while I’m not living The Creative Life, I love reading about people who do. And this book gives insight into the parts that are horrible and wondrous. And it especially addresses the loneliness that can result from that life.
I found it most consoling.
And I kept marking passages I adored.
“Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.” (p. 34)
For a person who’s always leaning toward the future, this is some tough and wise advice.
And for a person in the midst of a house search when reading this book, this line struck me: “…this circumstance, along with other practical difficulties in finding a place to live, helped make the restlessness around us seem as if it would never end, and the unfamiliarity lay upon us with the weight of homelessness.” (p. 46)
Overly dramatic for my situation? Definitely. But that helped nonetheless.
And this wisdom, which I find more true the more I live:
“If only it were possible for us to see farther than our knowledge reaches, and even a little beyond the outerworks of our presentiment, perhaps we would bear our sadness with greater trust than we have in our joys.” (pp. 82-83)
And then he goes on to explain how sadness transforms us, and it’s one of the loveliest and most moving things I’ve ever read.
And I’m pretty sure I’m going to go along my merry way and forget it.
So: this blog post is my reminder to not do that. Future Self, re-read those pages. Heck, re-read the whole book — it’s only 109 pages, and I promise you, dear darling Future Me, that you’ll be glad of it.
I read the Stephen Mitchell translation, because word on the street is that it’s the one. I was well pleased.
Give this book a whirl if you like… pondering creativity and solitude, lovely writing, life advice
Readers… what’s the book you want to remind yourself to re-read?