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***Letters to a Young Poet

by Rainer Maria Rillke

translated by Joan M. Burnham

Reviewed November 3, 2001.
New World Library.  2000.  101 pages.

This book consists of ten letters that writer Rainer Maria Rilke wrote to Franz Kappus in the early 1900s.  They are part inspiration, part philosophy.  Anyone interested in the creative arts will find them intriguing.

There were many parts that I found thought-provoking.  One was the statement, “To feel that one could live without writing is enough indication that, in fact, one should not.”  I’m not sure whether or not I agree with that.  Is that part of the idea that you can only focus on one thing in life if you wish to be great?  Ursula K. LeGuin is the one who got me questioning that idea in her Tales From Earthsea.  Aren’t women’s lives made up of many different foci, at different times and seasons of our lives?  When I think about the many different interests in my life and the many different hats I wear, each one has enriched me in its own way.  I’m a Mom, a wife, a mathematician, a library technician, a writer, a reader, a knitter, a musician, and lots of other things as well.  Could I be Great if I was only one of those things?  Maybe.  But part of me feels that I would be poorer.

On the other hand, even though I’m not working on my book these days, I am writing these book reviews, writing e-mails and journal entries.  So perhaps I’m one who “must” write after all.  Perhaps this is what he means.  As I said, the book got me thinking. 

Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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