Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Letters to a Young Poet” as Want to Read:
Letters to a Young Poet
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Letters to a Young Poet

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  70,622 ratings  ·  6,469 reviews
In 1903, a student at a military academy sent some of his verses to a well-known Austrian poet, requesting an assessment of their value. The older artist, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926), replied to the novice in this series of letters—an amazing archive of remarkable insights into the ideas behind Rilke's greatest poetry. The ten letters reproduced here were written during ...more
Paperback, 80 pages
Published May 8th 2002 by Dover Publications (first published 1929)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Letters to a Young Poet, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Peter Ruark I wonder that as well, as I read this collection. In a sense, reading only Rilke's replies and keeping Kappus' letters a mystery adds to the experienc…moreI wonder that as well, as I read this collection. In a sense, reading only Rilke's replies and keeping Kappus' letters a mystery adds to the experience. But, like you, I am curious about those letters _from_ a young poet as well.

To Rachel's comment, Kappus' sonnet is included (at least in this edition by M.D. Herter Norton) because Rilke copied out the sonnet in his own hand, encouraging Kappus to read his sonnet as if written by another and thus more fully understand the parts of himself from which his art comes.(less)
Sonja M.D. Herter Norton is the translated the 3rd English edition, which is what I read and loved. However, Mark Harmon, not the actor, has been praised by…moreM.D. Herter Norton is the translated the 3rd English edition, which is what I read and loved. However, Mark Harmon, not the actor, has been praised by the Harvard Press for his 5th English edition as the go-to and I believe it is now standard.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.30  · 
Rating details
 ·  70,622 ratings  ·  6,469 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Letters to a Young Poet
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the_write_mind
Go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows.

Rainer Maria Rilke puts forth the question ‘must I write?’ in these letters from the great poet to the unknown Mr. Kappus. ‘Dig into yourself for a deep answer,’ he tells the young poet, ‘and if this answer rights out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity.Letters To A Young Poet, written between 1903-08, contains some of the mo
Jim Fonseca
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rilke (1875-1926) was a famous German poet, born in Prague. He traveled widely throughout Europe, married and had a daughter. A dozen years out of school, after Rilke had achieved some fame as a poet, a young man wrote to him asking for advice about life and poetry. Rilke wrote ten letters to him over five years. The young boy was romantic, frail and dreamy; a prisoner, so to speak, in a military boarding school where he was subject to strict discipline, bullying and humiliation. It was the same ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Briefe an einen jungen Dichter = Letters to a Young Poet‬‭‭, Rainer Maria Rilke

In 1903, a student at a military academy sent some of his verses to a well-known Austrian poet, requesting an assessment of their value. The older artist, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926), replied to the novice in this series of letters — an amazing archive of remarkable insights into the ideas behind Rilke's greatest poetry.

The ten letters reproduced here were written during an important stage in Rilke's artistic deve
May 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Letters to a Young Poet

Rainer Maria Rilke

'Letters to young poet', written by famed poet Rainer Maria Rilke, starts with a 'imaginary' poet Mr. Kappus seeking affirmation, from the great German poet, whether he should write ? The book continues with a series of letters which are generous answers, to the letters by'Young Worker', by Rilke, who was only 28 then, at length, and in great detail about what constitutes creativity and poetry, and how to channel the former into the latter. When you r
Riku Sayuj
The last book for the year. The soothing, gentle, unimposing yet wise voice of Rilke - what better way to fold up one more chapter in life and open another, with hope for more suffering and joys in apt measure. This little book has been my companion for four years now, always half-finished, and it feels strange to finally remove the bookmark and to keep it aside.

Read it with a forgiving bend. Keep in mind that Rilke never wrote them with an intention to publish, it was mostly an attempt to conve
these letters rewired my whole brain chemistry
Dear Mr. Rilke,

Assuming it to be a frequent phenomenon with you, I partake in pleasure and liberty of appointing you the receiver of yet another letter, from a besotted admirer of your wisdom and expression.

You see I have always felt that the best stories are those that we wish turned true; stories that uplift us with their depths and spring us back to the surface to stay afloat; stories that carry our thoughts in their seams and weave the most warm blankets to protect us in the winters of life;

Dear Mr Rilke,
How can I thank you enough for these marvelously heartfelt letters, full of inspiration, beauty and wisdom. They are a glorious gift, a gospel of wonderful words which I will follow all the days of my life.

Dear Reader,
If there is one thing I would say to you, it is to caution you against immoderation, against lavish and excessive language. When you write, try to say what you really feel and using the simplest language you know. Listen to the silence deep in your heart and begin th
J.L.   Sutton
Mar 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves...Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

“The only journey is the one within.”

Image result for rilke

Really loved the idea of 'living the question.' Beginning in 1903 and spanning a 5-year period, Rainer
Paul Bryant
Aug 03, 2020 rated it really liked it

Dear Mr Rilke

I am not sure I made myself completely clear in my last letter to you. Judging by the reply you were so kind enough to send, I don’t think you quite realised that my landlord has now issued a notice to quit, the period of which terminates this month, and, as I tried to explain, I have been let go from my position at the slaughterhouse – I stress that these are not metaphors, or ironic parables, dear Mr Rilke. It could be that you thought I was speaking poetic
Elyse  Walters
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While reading “Ideas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories”,
by Joan Silber .... I found myself really enjoying the poetry - inserted - by Rainer Maria Rilke—relevant -powerful - truthful - beautiful- words of depth I connected with.

I wanted to know more about who Rilke was.
I found this book -a
compilation of 10 letters that Rilke wrote to a young poet named Franz Xaver. Xaver wanted to know if his work was good.
— Rilke letters are inspirational - filled with wisdom -( jewels to writers)- and beauty.
Jan 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In which Rainer Maria Rilke, both mercilessly and mercifully, bashes me over the head with a baseball bat from the other side of the Great Whatever.
May 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I always underline in books, either for the wise quotes that teach or the pure beauty of the passage. About ten pages into this book, though, I gave up underlining as nearly every sentence was a combination of beauty and wisdom. These letters (to a young man he never even met!) are inspiring in their honesty, teaching to cherish your solitude, "to walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours... to be solitary as you were when you were a child, when the grownups walked around involved with matt ...more
Carolyn Marie Castagna
First book finished for the Rory Gilmore 24 hour readathon!!! Full review to come!!! 📖🖤
What a tremendous thrill it must have been for budding poet Franz Xaver Kappus, to receive the first letter in response to his own from his literary idol, Rainer Maria Rilke. And then, to receive nine more.

This collection has been widely read and is widely loved. Only the letters from Rilke (written from 1903 - 1908) are included, which is fine, because even Rilke acknowledges several times that he is not addressing Kappus' specific questions or concerns. Rather, he gives a loving, far reaching
In Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke shows us, through the content of extreme sensitivity and insight, the advice addressed to the young poet Franz Kappus who was hesitant to pursue his literary career. The beauty and truth in this correspondence covering ten letters between 1903 and 1908 made this work known worldwide. Using its inherent simplicity, Rilke talks about solitude and what it holds of greatness and describes with immense wisdom facets of the inner life of the human being and portraits ...more
Constantina Maud
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I could just paste here all the passages I highlighted while reading this last month during my breaks from writing--but that would mean pasting practically the entire book.
Because it is that good.
You don't have to be a writer to truly enjoy this heartwarming read. Through this correspondence revolving around the writing craft, Rilke gives us glimpses into his general worldview and way of life convictions. His insight and existential approach on themes like anxiety, solitude and empathy are deepl
Sanjay Gautam
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was a profound, almost celestial, experience reading these letters by Rilke.
Twelve years on and it will have been a ten
by ten span of time since you left, Rilke.
Left on high, left to below both word and
hope, hope, most of all hope. Your heart you gave,
and for that we love.

I'd like to rhyme in metered line along
the likes of you, but too long ago your
poetry graced my eyes. What lies left's a
feeling fit for tears and joy alone, and
somber light it is.

Your maudlin days do not astonish, for
many a kindred of mine has suffered
the same, and yet, goes on. I draw from each
Jan 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, czech
2nd time reading this one. The Liveright edition (published in 2020) contains, for the first time in English, the letters of the “young poet” to Rilke. Reading Franz Xaver Kappus’s point of view was almost as beautiful as having only read Rilke’s replies. The discussion is better grounded, more meaningful. The only thing that remains a mystery for me (and others too, it seems) is the gap between 1904 to 1908 in the correspondence between the two. It seems like it tapered off, cooled down. I know ...more
Jul 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Notes collected

Rilke, the lonely German-language poet, but not really a German, rather an exile for 10 years,...possessor of nothing, but his language, shows a young man how a "masterpiece of art" can be accomplished and last for long.

Paris 1903.

It appears that Rilke had been approached by a poet asking for a critical view of his output. Yet, Rilke's standing was not critical, at all; he rather preferred a hearty (almost paternal) reply. So he advised the young poet to look inside,
Rakhi Dalal
Feb 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
There is something very pious about the experience you have while reading this book. No, I am certainly not a theist. Not anymore. But if ever there were a Pantheon built for the bibliophiles, Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letter To a Young Poet” shall invariably have a place in it.

Though this is just an account of Letters written by him to an aspiring poet, Rainer speaks to you in a language, which seems to be coming back to you, like a cherished memory once been forgotten. The Solitude he speaks abou
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Treasure Chest for Artists and Lovers of Art

I don't normally read a lot of poetry, but when considering this book a few years back, I'd read some of Rilke's poetry and the high praise I mention below. When I read this short book (80 pages) though, I had no idea what a true chest of treasures lies herein. I highlighted so much text and made so many notes, I noticed I left little text unscathed.

This book consists of ten letters written by Rainer Maria Rilke to a younger poet. It, and particularl
Dave Schaafsma
Aug 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing-books
“Try to love the questions themselves”--Rainer Maria Rilke

I am not really a poet, though I have written several poems and even published a few. I read this fifty years ago first and have read it or parts of it many times since. I think it is more a younger man's book, thus the recipient of these letters, but I liked reading it for the earnest passion in it. There’s just such lovely writing and thinking and feeling in it. Rilke was one of the best poets ever. In this book he publishes ten letters
preru (ᵔᴥᵔ)
Jun 29, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
4 stars

"Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

devoured and literally underlined almost every line that this book had. . a lovely , quick read~! :)
Rilke has sent 10 letters to his friend and pen pal, Kappus, talking about all manner of things, but mostly art and poetry. Kappus is a student asking Rilke about writing. He sends him his stories and letters and Rilke reads them and comments them. They also have a friendship developing between them.

This isn't a story, but it shows a historical mentorship. The book is the 10 letters that Rilke sent, but in this edition, they also print out the letters that Kappus sent to Rilke so we can see both

Sigh. Rilke answers nothing and answers everything.

He talks of our ancestors as being "murmuring blood." This book, containing the voice of his wisdom across the age, is blood that courses through us and speaks.

It offers comfort to me in the face of life's challenges, its unrequited longings. It helps me see the value of difficulties and the importance of patience.

I wish I'd read this many years ago. I think it would have given me guidance I needed, even if it didn't lead me away from mistakes.
Last weekend, I went to see “Jojo Rabbit” with my husband. I laughed so hard, and then I ugly-cried. Needless to say, I loved the movie, and I was very struck with the final frame, which showed a quote from one of Rilke’s most famous poem, “Go to the Limits of Your Longing”:

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final."

We had to stay behind while I composed myself as the credits rolled, because out of nowhere, that quote hit me like a sucker punch. I’ve had a
Jan 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-2019
This book divides me, unequally.

So there's this younger me—college sophomore, terribly confused, desperate, and unconsolably depressed, who recites You Who Never Arrived during long, vespertine walks, and who sees poetry as a way to emancipate the soul: yes, that type—who sees Letters To A Young Poet as something immaculate, who might as well put the hundred-page paperback in a glass case, on top of a pedestal, and worship it every morning. He is the smaller half, perhaps fifteen, twenty percen
“Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all—ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write?”

A nineteen-year-old military cadet took a chance and wrote a letter to Rainer Maria Rilke asking for advice about writing poetry. The amazing thing is that Rilke wrote back with long, thou
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Upstream: Selected Essays
  • Only Dull People Are Brilliant at Breakfast
  • Bluets
  • Time Is a Mother
  • Night Sky with Exit Wounds
  • The Local School
  • First Love
  • The Prophet
  • Niels Lyhne
  • The Broken Wings
  • Soul Cure: How to Heal Your Pain and Discover Your Purpose
  • A Room of One's Own
  • Ariel
  • Autobiography of Red
  • Dream Work
  • My Life Had Stood a Loaded Gun
  • On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
  • Giovanni's Room
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Rainer Maria Rilke is considered one of the German language's greatest 20th century poets.

His haunting images tend to focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety — themes that tend to position him as a transitional figure between the traditional and the modernist poets.

He wrote in both verse and a highly lyrical prose. His two mos

Articles featuring this book

Did you set an extremely ambitious Reading Challenge goal back in January? And has this, uh, unprecedented year gotten completely in the way of...
129 likes · 37 comments
“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” 11469 likes
“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away... and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast.... be happy about your growth, in which of course you can't take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don't torment them with your doubts and don't frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn't be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn't necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust.... and don't expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.” 2986 likes
More quotes…