“The future stands still, dear Mr. Kappus, but we move in infinite space”
Franz Xaver Kappus was a young man dreaming of becoming a poet in the early 1903. A great admirer of the already accomplished poet R.M. Rilke, he wrote a letter asking for advice on how to become a poet. This book is 10 letters out of 6 years of correspondence.
We read only Rilke’s answers to Mr. Kappus, but the answers are so universal and thorough that we do not need the question. Mr. Kappus wants to know about life and love and sadness and Rilke is more sad than most and so he has more words on sadness.
I have a soft spot for German poetry and if you can I’d recommend reading it in its original language as some of the poetry and rhythm in language is lost. But not everything is lost. The thoughts and phrasings are unique and the ways of regarding life and sadness causes deep reflection into oneself.
It is a great look into a deep friendship based on admiration and trust. While we never read Kappus’ poetry we get a sense that it is unremarkable, but the Rilke still places immense importance onto it; “Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism”. These words are the crux of the book. Kappus deeply longs to become a poet and Rilke explains that there is no feedback he or anyone can give in order to aid in his aspiration. One simply is a poet, and no criticism will deter the true poet from his path.
This book made me long for deep conversations, for honesty and wonder in my conversations with others. It made me want to read the book again and it made me want to write poetry