Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Letters to a Young Poet: Quotes, Part I

My mother-in-law sent me an email about yesterday's post and added some great perspective:
One Christmas I received a family picture card from a former grad school classmate.  She wrote "I graduated from law school in June, took my boards in August and had my third childa girlin October."  I felt like the biggest slug in the world.  I think your feelings are universal in that every generation feels them.  I found myself wishing my life away so I could see around the next corner.  Finally, with age, these feelings subside.  The really important things in life come through then.  But you can't know that at 27.  The journey will take you there and that's the fun part.
As promised, I wanted to share some excerpts from "Letters to a Young Poet" (Part I includes eight quotes to start!)  Since I love so many of them, I would recommend taking a little quiet time to read through them slowly and with intention.  Often, I just skim through blog posts, online articles, Facebook posts, etc, because life is busy and I need to move quickly.  So this time, I encourage you to shut out distractions, curl up with a cup of coffee, allow yourself some time, and open your mind and heart...  (And let me know what you think!)
On looking outside for approval and comparing yourself to others:
"You ask whether your verses are any good.  You ask me.  You have asked others before this.  You send them to magazines.  You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work.  Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing.  You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now."

On finding your true passion:
"Go into yourself.  Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.  This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write?  Dig into yourself for a deep answer.  And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must," then build your life in accordance with this necessity."

On the richness of everyday life:
"Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose.... So rescue yourself from these general themes and write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beautydescribe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects you remember.  If your everyday life seems poor, don't blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches..."

On the power of books:
"A whole world will envelop you, the happiness, the abundance, the inconceivable vastness of the world.  Live for awhile in these books, learn from them what you feel is worth learning, but most of all love them.  This love will be returned to you thousands upon thousands of times, whatever your life may becomeit will, I am sure, go through the whole fabric of your becoming, as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."
On following your heart:
"Always trust yourself and your own feeling, as opposed to argumentations, discussions, or introductions of that sort; if it turns out you are wrong, then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights."

On patience:
"In this there is no measuring time, a year doesn't matter, and ten years are nothing.  Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn't force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come.  It does come.  But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast.  I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!"

On loving and living the questions:
"You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.  Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."

On solitude:
"What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude.  To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hoursthat is what you must be able to attain.  To be solitary as you were when you were a child, when the grownups walked around involved with matters that seemed large and important because they looked so busy and because you didn't understand a thing about what they were doing."


  1. I needed to hear this today. Love you!


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