Letters to a Young Poet: A New Translation and Commentary Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
A fresh perspective on a beloved classic by acclaimed translators Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy.
German poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s (1875-1926) Letters to a Young Poet has been treasured for nearly a century. Rilke’s personal reflections on the vocation of writing and the experience of living urge an aspiring poet to look inward, while also offering sage wisdom on further issues including gender, solitude, and romantic love. Barrows and Macy’s translation extends this compilation of timeless advice and wisdom to a fresh generation of readers and listeners. With a new introduction and commentary, this edition places the letters in the context of today’s world and the unique challenges we face when seeking authenticity.
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|Listening Length||1 hour and 37 minutes|
|Author||Rainer Maria Rilke, Anita Barrows - translator, Joanna Macy - translator|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||June 01, 2021|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #76,436 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#27 in Literary Memoirs, Diaries & Correspondence
#209 in Literary Letters
Top reviews from the United States
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Anita Barrows is a translator and poet, a professor of psychology and a clinical psychologist. Joanna Macy is a professor of philosophy and scholar of Buddhism, systems thinking, and deep ecology. Their commentary offers interesting psychological and social insights into the letters.
Rilke was himself a young poet of twenty-seven when cadet Franz Xaver Kappus wrote and asked him to read his poetry and for advice. Kappus had learned that Rilke had attended the his military academy and hoped for advice as he endeavored to be a poet while in the military.
Rilke had been sent to the academy because his father wanted to remove him from his mother's influence. She had given him a girl's name, Rene Maria, and put him in dresses. His father decided that he needed toughening up to prepare for a man's life.
Rilke responded to Kappus by warning that no one, nothing external, could advise him; he must look within for the answers, and in the process, he must embrace the unknown and that which is terrifying.
If his work and peers provided little inspiration, he told Kappus, "If your daily life seems to bleak--don't blame it--blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its wealth." And if all else fails, there was his childhood, "that deep well of memories."
Letter Four includes one of my favorite lines, "have patience with all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like closed rooms, like books written in a foreign language." He continues to advise not to seek the answers, but to live into them.
Rilke had been influenced by the sculptor Rodin who had taught the importance of solitude for the artist. Art required looking within and being separate. An artist does not need others:"Where there is no community among people, draw close to the things that present themselves around you; they will not abandon you. The nights are there, and the winds that blow through trees and over the lands..."
Yes, solitude is difficult, but so is love. And love, he says, is not about "merging," the goal is a "more human love" that consists of "two solitudes that protect, border, and greet each other," a love that allows personal space and growth.
Fear of the mysterious and the unknown is also good, something we should be open to and embrace. "If our world has fears, they are our fears. If it has an abyss, it belongs to us. If dangers appear, we must try to love them...Perhaps every terror is, at its core, something helpless that wants our help."
And he advises to "let life happen to you. Believe me--you can count on life in any case."
Trust the process, embrace that which frightens you, learn to love the unknown, and do not look for romantic love to save you.
Rilke's advice helped me as a young woman, and it helps me as I approach my seventh decade. For the questions have only become larger, the unknown closer.
The commentators point out that the first letter from Kappus arrived as Rilke was writing The Book of Hours, in which he "reconcieveing of God as not the image of perfection but as the sacred process of seeing the brokenness of the world as a sacred act."
They see Rilke's Letter 7, to love without merging, representing Rilke's relationship with his great love Lou Andreas-Salome, and demonstrating the Jungian concept of individuation (self-realization that rises above self-centeredness). Lou studied with Freud and became the first female psychoanalyst.
Also, in Letter 8 ("the world has fears") they find Rilke's message foreshadowing Jung's concept of the collective unconscious (shared archetypes/symbols, not personal) which Jung wrote about twelve years later.
Barrows and Macy have eliminating sections of the letters as pontificating, or not relevant to modern readers, or because the message was badly conceived. Those segments appear in the commentary.
The translation is clear and easy to understand.
Every generation faces a world of terrors, every person struggles to forge a path to a whole and healthy life. I believe that the Letters are still relevant and have much to offer.
I received a free galley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.
It was a good read and I am indebted to the translators for their work. Rilke’s words may be useful. I found them inspirational.
The power of solitude and immersing oneself in the natural world are emphasized.
This beautiful little volume is easily read in one sitting. I know I will return to its pages again and again.
It also worth noting that a lot of his thoughts were well ahead of his time. It’s funny how a some of his prediction have come true a century later.