Matthew Hussey’s videos (among his other content) on rejection contain supremely powerful messages that move one to action. In one such video, he recommended the the book, Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Rilke. Hussey said the book delves into how to be comfortable in solitude, the solitude in which one pursues self-growth and self-improvement. I must admit, the book does not disappoint in this regard and in others, including topics such as poetry/writing, vocation, God, nature, sorrows, fear, and relationships.
In Letters to a Young Poet (Kindle ed., Dover Publications, 2012), the poignancy in Rilke’s words to Franz Xaver Kappus (Rilke addresses him as “Herr Kappus” in the letters) is, at times, striking. Some of my favorite quotes from the book are:
“Your solitude will be your home and haven even in the midst of very strange conditions, and from there you will discover all your paths.” (p. 24)
“Ask yourself, … whether you have after all really lost God? Is it not much rather the case that you have never yet possessed him?” (55)
“Don’t think that the man who seeks to comfort you lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words which sometimes do you good. His life has much hardship and sadness and lags far behind you. If it were otherwise, he could never have found those words.” (29)
At one point Rilke comments on one of Kappus’s sonnets: “I found it beautiful and simple, and born in the form which it wears with such quiet grace” (30). Imagine a famous poet complimenting your poetry in such a way!
Here are some interesting words from the text and their definitions:
1. Dilatoriness (24): slowness as a consequence of not getting around to it.
2. Fortuitous (25): happening by accident or chance rather than design.
3. Vicissitude (34): a change of circumstances or fortune, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant.