We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Letters to a Young Poet?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Letters to a Young Poet is a collection of letters written by Ranier Maria Rilke, the famed 20th century German poet, to a young man named Franz Kappus. Kappus had attended the same school that Rilke attended some years prior, and he wrote to Rilke seeking criticism of his own poetry and a little guidance on how best to pursue his life. Rilke responded with an energy and a beauty of prose that makes Letters to Young Poet one of the foremost treatises on the act of writing and creative inspiration, interspersed with Rilke’s philosophy on a variety of subjects.

Letters to a Young Poet only features ten letters to Mr. Kappus, and none of Kappus’ letters to Rilke. Yet even without Kappus’ letters, Rilke’s responses are treasured by generations of readers and by any writer seeking inspiration. Rilke not only encourages Kappus to continue writing, but also to assess why he must write, and to think about his place in the world and what it means to be part of the human experience.

Introductions to Letters to a Young Poet nearly always cite that Kappus’ first letter made Rilke uncomfortable, reminding him of his experiences at the military boarding school Rilke attended, and that Kappus, at least in the beginning of their correspondence, was attending. Rilke had had a terrible, isolated time at the school, and finally left it, very ill and with a lack of direction.

Since Rilke’s father was in the military, Rilke assumed this would also be his career path. Instead he became a writer, though there was certainly some suffering involved in making this decision. Yet Letters to a Young Poet never rebukes Kappus for making contact with Rilke, and instead generously encourages Kappus to keep corresponding, even though his choice of subjects would at times pain Rilke.

Surprisingly, Letters to a Young Poet has very little to do with literary criticism. In fact Rilke urged Kappus to ignore criticism and keep aiming for what was the best and true in his poetry. Instead, the letters suggest a few books that Rilke thinks essential to all writers, and offers a great deal of advice.

There’s some very interesting subject matter in the letters as Rilke discourses on feminism, envisioning a time in the not distant future — he was writing in the early 20th century — when women would become the full and true equals of men. He also approaches subjects like sexuality and atheism with a light touch, offering quite good advice to his younger correspondent. A consistent theme in Letters to a Young Poet is dealing with loneliness, and the way in which loneliness can lend fire to creativity.

If you know a teen writer or a young adult writer who is seeking guidance, Letters to a Young Poet makes for the perfect gift. Rilke is better known for these ten short letters, especially outside of Germany, than he is for much of his triumphant poetry. Writers often praise Letters to a Young Poet as special insight into Rilke’s writing process and his gentle genius.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon24753 — On Jan 17, 2009

Is there a German version? If so, what's the title?

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen

Writer

With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.