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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters

"Letters to a Young Poet" has to be the most exacting use of language in modern history. I know that is a huge hyperbole, but I can't help it when everything I am reading presently leaves me breathless. Rilke writes about so many topics using such exactitude of language that it is really a disservice to try and comment on it here. It simply cannot be more perfect than it already is. We have all asked ourselves whether or not we have anything important to say with our writing. Should we write? Why write? Rilke's take on it is simply classic: "There is only one single way. 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?" And a thousand other things that are so captivating it is nearly impossible to wonder how could someone have such an insight into life and be able to convey it in beautiful language.

These letters, written to Franz Kappus, deal with so much more than mere art. Rilke writes about the importance of introspection: "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 gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answers. Perhaps you do carry within yourself the possibility of shaping and forming as a particularly happy and pure way of living; train yourself to it--but take whatever comes with great trust, and if only it comes out of your own will, out of some need of your inmost being, take it upon yourself and hate nothing." Marvelous advice, really. There are so many things to reflect on that the mere 154 pages go by in a flash. Going back to the earlier passage, I have long debated whether or not I should write. I once wrote an essay titled "Why I don't Write." It was simply an examination as to who can claim the title of writer. I didn't come up with any definite answer, but the essay made me reflect on more than one aspect of the viral way in which writers operate and to which I cannot claim hold of.

I think Rilke was a great decision to re-read. I am underlining the most moving passages and will continue to post as I see fit. If you've never read the "Letters," I strongly encourage you to do so as soon as possible. Life seems so much fuller because of them.

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At 2:25 PM, Blogger Orange Blossom Goddess (aka Heather) said...

This book sounds wonderfully inspiring!!! I've copied down the author and book to add to my Mountain. Great post!!!

At 3:05 PM, Blogger Ex Libris said...

I have this book on my shelf. Sounds like I need to pull it out and read it immediately!


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