About Craft: Letters to a Young Poet (excerpt)

Paris, February 17th, 1903.

“[…] You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me. You have asked others before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are disturbed when certain editors reject your efforts.

Now (since you have allowed me to advise you) I beg you to give up on all that. You are looking outwards, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you write. This above all–ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night; must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if it should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.”


by Rainer Maria Rilke




Rainer Maria Rilke was a poet and novelist born in 1875 in Prague, capital of Bohemia (then part of Austria-Hungary, now part of the Czech Republic). Before his death, he was diagnosed with leukemia. He died in 1926, in the Valmont Sanatorium in Switzerland.





Top Image: Deutsch. Exlibris für Rainer Maria Rilke, um 1900. Höhe 9; Breite 4,2 cm. Aus dem Nachlass von Louis Graf, München, Grafikdrucker. Source: Original in Privatbesitz.