Saturday, March 6, 2010

Letters to a Young Poet/Chicken Soup for the Artist's Soul

If you're an artist and you ever find yourself in a rut or questioning what you do, please, please read a translation of Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet. I just finished the tiny, 100 page book last week and its effects were similar to the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books you would read when your younger - but way better.

Rainer is absolutely inspirational in his ability to take everyday cliches and turn them into beautiful poetic letters about the life of an artist. Much of it rings true, other parts cause you to contemplate deeply the meaning of what you do. Read it when you can no longer stand the politics, the critics, or even yourself haha.

Here are a few quotes I found particularly meaningful:

Paris, February 17, 1903:

"You ask if your verses are good. You ask me. You have previously asked others. You send them to journals. You compare them with other poems, and you are troubled when certain editors reject your efforts. Now (as you have permitted me to advise you) I beg you to give all that up. You are looking outwards, and of all things that is what you must now not do. Nobody can advise and help you, nobody. There is only one single means. Go inside yourself. Discover the motive that bids you write; examine whether it sends its roots down to the deepest places of your heart, confess to yourself whether you would have to die if writing were denied you."

Viareggio near Pisa, April 23, 1903

"And let me here at once request you: read as few aesthetic-critical things as possible,--they are either partisan opinions, become hardened and meaningless in their lifeless petrifaction, or else they are a skillful play upon words, in which one view is uppermost today and its opposite tomorrow. Works of art are of an infinite solitariness, and nothing is less likely to bring us near them than criticism."

Worpswede near Bremen, July 16th, 1903

"...dear Sir...have patience with everything that is unsolved in your heart and to try to cherish the questions themselves, like closed rooms and like books written in a very strange tongue. Do not search now for the answers which cannot be given you because you could not live them. It is a matter of living everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, one distant day live right into the answer."

Rome, May 14, 1904

"To love is also good: for love is difficult. Fondness between human beings: that is perhaps the most difficult task that is set us, the ultimate thing, the final trial and test, the work for which all other work is only preparation."

Borgeby Gard, Sweden, August 12, 1904

"But please consider whether these great sorrows have not rather passed through the midst of yourself? Whether much in you has not altered, whether you have not somehow changed in some part of your being, while you were sorrowful? Only those sorrows are dangerous and bad which we carry about among our fellows in order to drown them; like diseases which are superficially and foolishly treated, they only recede and break out after a short interval all the more frightfully; and gather themselves in our inwards, and are life, are unlived, disdained, lost life, of which one can die. If it were possible for us to see further than our knowledge extends and out a little over the outworks of our surmising, perhaps we should then bear our sorrows with greater confidence than our joys."

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