Random Thoughts

A hope for a little advice

... ideas about life, about human experiencing.

By Ed Boyd

I’ve had a little book for several years that I often revisit. Rainer Maria Rilke’s, “Letters to a Young Poet”, is a mine of ideas about life, of human experience. In chapter One, Rilke responds to a poet asking for advice about his writing. I have extracted and strung together a few of Rilke’s ideas about giving advice to writers.

“Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism: they always result in more or less fortunate misunderstandings…no one can advise or help you—no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write…write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty—describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember…and if out of this turning within, out of this immersion in your world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not…a work of art is good if it is arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it.”

These words say successful writing comes from within not from others. In the same letter, Rilke does offer criticism of poems attached, praising and negative. This seems like a contradiction until the realization that outside information may be sought and absorbed but, ultimately, the writer must judge for himself.

October 2, 2009

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