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Welcome to The Harbour January 2020


Art Escape

Red Couch Diaries

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The Book Club

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet


This book is one of the first books I remember reading that spoke to the artist in me. 


I was in my twenties. I had no idea that I was an artist. I just had this compounding desire to make rugs. Every time I made one, I wanted to make another. As I was making one, I was thinking about the next one. 


 I know you understand this. This love of making. 


 This tiny book had a profound impact on my work. 


 I was just starting out and I was sending pictures of my work off to galleries for feedback. I was looking outward for someone to tell me I was really an artist. I was so unsure of my work. 


Everywhere he spoke of writing, I just substituted making rugs in my mind. 


 When I read this book that was written so long ago it made me realize that whenever you start to make art, no matter what your age, the same questions come up. We are all uncertain but we have to go forward and carry those doubts with us. 


 I never related a lot not Rilke’s poetry, which he was famous for, but I loved the honesty and openness in these letters. They seemed so raw and personal and I felt as they were speaking right to me. I have read it several times since, given it for gifts and really cherish my original copy with notes in the margins. Every time I open it and go over those notes, I feel the same certainty about the advice and lessons that I got in the beginning. 


 Here are sixteen lessons I found in the letters: 


1. The purpose of art is to clarify the beliefs you hold dear. 

2. Rather than look for criticism develop your own sense of judgement. 

3. To make art you must go inward, into yourself, into the source of your being. 

4. Nature is an important place to find inspiration for your art.

5. You can use themes from everyday life. If you do not think that your everyday life has anything worth expressing than                     change that. 

6. Love books, and you will be repaid over and over. 

7. Take time to let ideas grow in you.” Everything is gestation and bringing forth.” 

8. Love the questions, live the questions, more than seeking the answers. 

9. Love your solitude and savour it. It is a home for you. 

10. As you grow appreciate where others are in their growth, don’t look down upon them, know you were there once. 

11. “There is much beauty here, because there is much beauty everywhere.” See what is around you. 

12. Observe things as a child does. 

13. Really loving another human being is one of our most difficult tasks, the task which everything else we do is in preparation          for. 

14. Difficulties and sadness pass, and when they do something new enters us and we become changed because of them. Do                not be afraid of them. 

15. We are not alone in our sadness. Even those who comfort us have experienced the same. 

16. Art is a way of living. 


Who was Rilke? 

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was born in Prague, which is located in what is now the Czech Republic, He had an unhappy childhood and was sent to military school in the hopes that he would become an officer. At a young age it was clear that he would pursue a literary career and by twenty he had published his first book of poetry.He travelled and lived and worked throughout Europe, mostly in poverty. Paris was his main home base. There he met and married a student of Rodin’s . For a time he worked as a secretary for Rodin. In a later collection, “Letters to a Young Painter” he speaks about his admiration for Rodin. 


This book, Letters to a Young Poet, that I love so much and influenced me so greatly was published in 1929 after Rilke’s death by Franz Kappus, a minor writer who had written to Rilke while he was a student at the same military academy where Rilke had gone. Kappus was holding Rilke’s collection of poetry when a former teacher of Rilke told him that the poet had been a student of his. Perhaps this connected them. 


The letters were written between 1902 and 1908 with the young Kappus asking for advice on his work. Rilke refused to give him any amount of criticism, except telling him that he lacked individual style and instead of focusing on the young mans work, he gave him advice on how to be an artist, how he should think, feel, and love the world around him. Kappus, himself never gained any fame for his writing. He mostly pursued his military career but to his credit continued to write and later in life as a newspaper editor. He never achieved any lasting fame but to me that is unimportant because he did continue to write books and screenplays with his last novel being published in 1949. One assumes that he carried the effect of these letters with him all his life, and his publishing of them has effected so many more artists. 


 


Portrait of Rilke by Paula Modersohn Becker 


You can read the book online here: https://epdf.pub/letters-to-a-young-poet.html 


If you would like to listen to more about the book try this podcast: On Books Podcast 

https://onbooks.libsyn.com



Navigating the Waters







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Deep Dive Activity

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The Village

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