One thing that struck me about these opening letters was Rilke's complete disinterest in sugarcoating the flaws of apprentice writing. "Your verses have no individual style, although they do show quiet and hidden beginnings of something personal." Off the top of my head, I can think of several people who, if I wrote such words to them about their poems, would flare into name-calling fury or collapse into a swamp of depression. Yet, of course, Rilke's words are simply honest. So my first curiosity is about the kind of person who is able to receive such words, accept them, and continue to strive as a student and a human being. What was it like to be Kappus, a man who thought he wanted to be a poet but never became one?
I'm also struck by sentences in these letters that seem to recall our conversations at the Frost Place this year. For instance: "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." This seems like a more a beautiful version of "you've got to use your stuff," and I find the instruction both very comforting and very demanding.
What did you notice in these first two letters? What were your reactions to Kappus's introduction? Did anything seem pertinent to your own life as a writer or a reader? Did anything worry or puzzle you? Leave your thoughts in the comments or, if you prefer, email them to me or share them as a Facebook message and I will post them for you.