Fragments from Letters to a Young Poet

Letters to a Young Poet is a collection of ten letters written by Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke to Franz Xaver Kappus (a 19-year-old officer cadet) from 1902 to 1908. The correspondence follows Kappus seeking advice from Rilke as to the quality of his poetry, as Kappus felt torn while deciding between a literary career or an army career.

Despite the title, Rilke’s words are not limited to only the young or only poets. Over the past year, I have been reading (and re-reading) the letters and found them almost heartbreakingly wise. Below is a favourite fragment of mine on loving and living with questions. 

I would like to beg of you, dear friend, as well as I can, to have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language.

Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything.

At present you need to 
live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.

– Rainer Maria Rilke
Letters to a Young Poet, The Fourth Letter

November 19, 2019 — Ashley Keller