Letters to a Young Poet

Art by Bobri

I’ve grown so unbearably fond of Rainer Maria Rilke.

I read him first on one of those Facebook pages and then again in another corner of the internet. A kind, devoted voice.

Then, one late night, plagued by boredom, steeped in loneliness, the name came to me as through a mist.

Reading him felt much like a meeting, a physical introduction. I could picture him with his back bent over some sturdy desk, carefully writing these long letters under candlelight to Kappus, the young poet, his face burdened by the worries of poverty… yet ever still believing, holding onto the beauty of this life.

“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place. And even if you were in some prison the walls of which let none of the sounds of the world come to your senses—would you not then still have your childhood, that precious, kingly posses­sion, that treasure-house of memories?”

Some books provide distractions. Others, fulfillment for what we cannot experience for ourselves. Many inform and broaden horizons. But some books, some rare books are friends. I have precious few of those: Le Petit Prince, Le Grand Meaulnes, Love in the Time of Cholera, The Prophet…and I cherish them to the point of pretending they do not exist in front of others. They are mine, in that strange way. Nobody else can love them in the precise manner that I do; others could not possibly have experienced what I have, they could never love them the way they should be: as sacred maps to the soul and what lies beyond it…

“Things are not all so comprehensible and expressible as one would mostly have us believe; most events are inexpressible, taking place in a realm which no word has ever entered, and more inexpressible than all else are works of art, mysterious existences, the life of which, while ours passes away, endures.”

It should be impossible to feel this way, as though you know someone you’ve never met. How can you connect with someone like this, across the chasm of years? Someone who would never know I would one day exist.

It’s home, somehow.

Home, the only feeling that matters. Not love, but home. The welcoming, the casual certainty that your place is waiting for you, as you have been waiting for it all this time. It is shelter, for a moment, for a piece of your soul.

“…for at bottom, and just in the deepest and most important things, we are unetterably alone…”


Note: So it’s been a long while…

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