Written by Swati
April 22nd, 2023
Recently, I’ve been reading “Letters To a Young Poet” by Ranier Maria Rilke. Anyone who is familiar with poetry or even a layer of the beautiful words found on Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr would recognize some of his more famous lines. An Austrian poet writing mostly in German, some of his work includes sound bites like, “ Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.” and “The only journey is the one within.” And one of my personal favorites, “This is the miracle that happens every time to those who love: the more they give, the more they possess.”
His work is both raw and polished, gentle flow of water and jagged edges of rock. When I finally obtained my copy of the book, I learned more about the heart behind his work. The book is a collection of letters written by Rilke to the young aspiring poet Franz Xaver Kappus, who studied at the same school as him. Kappus originally writes to Rilke looking for literary criticism on his early works, but instead receives advice about introspection and purpose. Two of the most basic rules authors follow, in my amateur experience, are: when your brain is empty: read. When your brain is too full: write. And listen to what people are saying, but listen harder to what they’re not saying. But something Rilke mentions often in his book that wasn’t such a big focus in my journey is the sheer necessity of writers to write. He pushes strongly to the calling of literature, how writers would be stunted without the written word. One of the best parts of being human is slipping on a career like a pair of shoes and taking them off when you’re ready for something different. The only constant thing in life is change. We are constantly creating, building, and destroying. We are constantly hearing, understanding, and internalizing. We are anomalies and enigmas. We want to stay the same and we want to change. We want people to see us, but we never see ourselves. We want to be understood but cannot fathom understanding.
What a fascinating life to live as an author. An author who calls everywhere and nowhere home, everyone and no one family, who can become anyone in the blink of an eye. What an incredible existence to be an artist in Europe who can take residence in any country and chooses a city like a roll of the dice and spins twists into their lives like a protagonist who controls their own story.
A writer is an admirer of the world, always peering through the looking glass, putting up a magnifying glass to their lives, shining a flashlight on the Earth and zooming in on what hits the beam first.
I’ve found indescribable joy studying strangers on the street and in train cars, frantically typing out thoughts in my Notes app on transit, and flipping through old books in foreign bookstores. If there’s anything I hope you find in your life, it’s what makes you tick. What flips the switch on in your brain, the magnetic force that draws you to being human. For some of us it’s a need to write that leads us to the need to live and whatever it is for you: I hope you find it.