Meet Me At The Museum – Anne Youngson

Hi Lovelies!!

The English exams are finally over so now I’ve got time to breathe again. It’s always a ridiculously busy time of year. I feel like I’ve blinked and missed May. I cannot believe it’s June. However, it’s so sunny and lovely that I just don’t mind. I spent the weekend with my family at Nostell Priory which was lovely (see photo above) and I also managed to read quite a beautiful book that I want to share with you all today.

This short little surprise took me little time to read because it was just that good. I think the cover is really lovely too.

What’s it all about?

The novel opens with a letter from Tina Hopgood to Professor Glob. Over fifty years ago, Professor Glob dedicated a book to Tina and thirteen other school friends, as well as his daughter, on The Bog People of Denmark. She is writing because she still hasn’t made it to see the Tollund Man homed by the Silkeborg Museum despite it being a plan for many years. Tina doesn’t expect any further replies to her letters. However, she uses her first two letters to try and get her head around her life, the choices she’s made and the events that have happened to shape her.

“…I am forced to consider what might be the real reasons, because you’re answer to an unasked question has made me want to be honest with myself. Please be aware, I am writing to you to make sense of myself.”

We learn about the character of Bella and the impact she had on Tina’s life. From being friends since school, the girls had big plans, all of which are shared with the stranger Curator of the museum in which she is writing to. This dialogue is not one sided. Anders Larsen, the Curator also gains a great deal from the letters shared between them. He claims it makes him think about history and the world. Yet, as time progresses, their dialogue does change to be more personal.

“I end, as always, with an apology. This is not why you started this correspondence, to read my views on ideas too grand for me to express them as I would like to do, even if my English, like yours, was perfect.”

The tone changes as the letters become more personal, more entwined in the sharing of their own personal lives. Tina tells of her life on the farm, the daily routine, how her husband embodies the farm; he is at one with it. However, Tina feels like she sacrificed her life and what she wanted, even though she is happy. In Anders’s response, he discloses the story of how his wife, Birgitt, died. His hopes and dreams died that day too. He’s merely been breathing not living since then. He shares her last words, arguably quite a bold step to share this with a complete stranger. There is a feeling, quite early on that these letters will come to have significant meaning for the both of them.

“I never saw her again. Her body has never been found. She left my side as if all her life she had been dreaming and now she wanted to wake a new day.”

As they continue to share their lives: stories of their children, their work and their pleasures, we come to realise that there is a sense of ease between the two. You can feel the excitement that each letter brings them both. There’s also a sense of urgency as Anders suggest they email and attach their letters to share their thoughts immediately. What is quite endearing is the process they go through, the printing of each letter, keeping them all together. As a reader, you get the feeling that each are waiting for the others name to appear in their inbox. The biggest need for both though is for Tina to visit the museum to see the Tollund Man. The narration centres around this and isn’t forgotten.

“I am looking forward to standing beside you when you meet the Tollund Man for the first time. I hope it is soon, but I trust you to know when the time has come.”

As each divulge and share more about their own children, Anders shares the new of his daughter’s pregnancy. He wants Tina’s opinion on Karin’s decision to keep the baby but not tell the father. Anders wants to share his thoughts but something is holding him back. He needs advice and reassurance from Tina: the bond between the two ever strengthening. Likewise, Tina wanted to share her discussion of this topic with her daughter, Mary and her partner, Vassily. The split narrative of Tina and Anders means we learn more about their children as we hear their voices through their parents. Each personality is strong and shines through the letter form. Their children shape how they think; the attitudes they have.

“We should look inside ourselves for fulfilment. It is not fair to burden children or grandchildren with the obligation to make us whole. Our obligation is them is to make them safe and provide them with an education.”

Tina shares the news that life is changing on the farm too as Mary and Vassily are moving to their own place, meaning they are leaving and need replacing. To deal with this change, each focus on a room and describe it to one another. They each teach the other to look hard and see what’s really there. Anders’s job is to look at objects and catalogue. However, it appears difficult when people are involved; the objects mean more. Ander’s talks about the objects his wife collected, no knowing the context to most. However, they’ve been sat for the time his wife has been gone bringing him no joy. He shares with his children the want to getting rid of them. It’s a sign of moving on.

“Lastly Erik laid the nest of twigs on the water of the lake and we watched as the waves and the breeze played games with it, tossing it away from us then towards us as if inviting us to decide we did not really want to let it go.”

There’s further sense of life progressing and moving on towards the end as Tina wants to end their correspondence because she doesn’t want to spread her unhappiness to Anders, who finally seems more content within his own circumstances. However, he persuades her to continue to share and reveal what is deeply troubling her. She discovers her husband’s affair. Life as she knows it is now completely different again. She leaves to live in Bella’s old flat. The letters slow down but do not diminish. She also starts to feel guilty because of her involvement with Anders.

“When I first found out I reacted with outrage. I felt like an innocent woman, grossly deceived by those she had trusted, those she had served. But once I calmed down, I began to challenge my own innocent. Because of you.”

Like a true friend and confidant, Anders offers solutions in his reply. This letter is one of the largest in the novel and you can tell that there has been serious thought and consideration in the words chosen. Underneath all of the advice, he just wants her to be happy. The novel goes full circle as we return to Tina reading The Bog People. The big question: will she go and see the Tollund Man? The final letter is from Anders, repeating the words echoed through the collection of letters.

“I am waiting for you. I will wait, every day, between twelve o’clock and two o’clock in the cafe in the museum. I will be watching the door, waiting for you to arrive.”

Overview

This novel is beautiful in its purest sense. The letters change from formal, to friendly to compassionate. As you are reading you can feel the walls of each character gradually tumble. They each learn from one another, their families change because of the friendship also.

This book taught me a valuable lesson, or reminded me that everyone needs to feel love regardless of age. I’m desperate to know if Tina went to the museum. Yet, I fear the magic would be lost if we ever did find out. This ending means we can create our own ending for these characters. In my heart, I just want happiness for them both but maybe I’m just being optimistic. Maybe they never meet and the letters are all they have. Who knows. Regardless, it’s a really beautiful read.

Big love to all!

Xx

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Filed under Book review, Reading

RTY: The Wood (The Life & Times of Cockshutt Wood) – John Lewis Stempel

Hello Lovelies!!

Today I want to share with you my review of my book choice for Penguin’s Read The Year Challenge. The topic for May was use a book to get closer to nature. I chose to read The Wood – The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood. This book was a perfect choice for me because I’ve been wanting to branch out into reading more non fiction.

The novel, told in diary format by John Lewis-Stempel, focuses on his final year of working at Cockshutt Wood and tending to the three and a half acres of woodland. After four years, Stempel coppiced the trees, raised cows and pigs who roamed there. He knows the land like the back of his hand, it is a part of him. It’s a blissful sanctuary.

“Cockshutt was a sanctuary for me too; a place of ceaseless seasonal wonder where I withdrew into tranquility. No one comes looking for you in a wood.”

What’s it all about?

Following the last twelve months, we see Cockshutt Wood change through the seasons. The novel starts in December where we read vivid descriptions of the robin singing, the trees standing naked and the snow gently falling. It’s picturesque, peaceful, beautiful. Man and nature becoming one.

“There is always the sense of the unexpected in a wood, a constant feeling that, around the next bend in the path, behind the bole of the next tree, there will be a surprise.”

As a reader, we are invited into Stempel’s life during December’s chapter. We learn about his background in this profession, stemming from his grandfather, the farm animals they had and how traditions have continued, such as holly. Yet, what I have never given thought to before is how on the surface, winter seems to signal the end. It’s a time when plants wither, the weather drops and it becomes a chore to be outside. Nevertheless, nature is working hard behind the scenes to look after us. Mother Nature is waiting for a sign just like we do, for that moment when we all wake up ready to face the world; to start again.

“Oddly aware, walking through the wood this afternoon, that it is dormant rather than dead. How the seeds, the trees and hibernating animals…are locked in a safe sleep against the cold and wet.”

January’s entries provide something I get quite excited about: snowdrops. The description of the weather is still cold, crisp and glittered with snow. The songs of robins sing through the wood. I personally always admire the snowdrop. I feel a thrill of excitement whenever I see them. Every year I look for them, for the sign. They are so delicate and beautiful, yet the survive the harshest of conditions in winter. They represent that spring will come, we’ve nearly made it.

“If snowdrops are appearing, then the earth must be wakening. Of all our wild flowers the white bells are the purest, the most ethereal, the most chaste… Whatever; the snowdrop says that winter is not forever.”

Spring has sprung in the wood and we hear the songs of the birds and the plants are all starting to wake. Spring also provides a sense of renewal in Stempel as he feels he has a spring in his step. The wood continues to create a sense of awe and amazement. References to different poems by John Clare, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning and Edward Thomas embody this sense of new life that spring brings. This lyrical way of writing means that the wood appears to be magical. For Stempel, it enables him to feel like he is a child again. I completely relate to this, being outside in the lush greenery makes me feel quite at peace. There’s a feeling that absolutely nobody can get to you.

“…the possibility of adventure in its secluded spaces. I’m still that boy. I cannot walk through a wood without a sense of wonder. And there is a relaxing privacy to a wood… A wood is an escape.”

Now we are in May, we have beautiful flowers, birdsong in abundance and longer, lighter evenings. It is the same for the wood. There’s a ‘blizzard of blossom’ and everything is growing at an enormous rate, a rate which Stempel (and every gardener too) only just about manages to keep a hold on. The new animals are appearing and finding their feet. It’s the best time of year and this lyrical narrative made me so excited and blissfully happy. If you close your eyes, you can imagine it, with the whole of your being.

“Dawn chorus II: starts with robin, then blackbird, song thrush, chiffchaff, willow warbler, wood warbler. They merge into a stream of song; I cannot distinguish their individual voices. They sing as one.”

Time rolls by and the summer months are passing like the gentle breeze being described. Trees are standing proud and tall, providing a home for a variety of insects and birds. The bees are working hard to provide for their own hive as well as us humans. Their buzz hums in the air. The does walk around the walk, their home with calm ease. Yet there is a sense of time passing, of seasons changing. The apples are swelling, nearly ready for picking. The fox cubs are sent into the wild to fend and find the way for themselves. Autumn is approaching.

“Colour change escalation, for the worse; most trees have lost vibrant hues in favour of a muddy brown mixed by a toddler let loose on a paintbox of watercolours.”

The novel ends by going full circle. We see the trees loose their leaves, squirrels nut collecting ready for hibernation, animals fighting one another for the berries on the bushes. It is inevitable; time moves on and seasons work together to change and nurture. This also means the end of Stempel’s time at Cockshutt Wood. During his four years here, he has become at one with the wood and the wood is at one with him.

“I thought the trees and the birds belonged to me. But now I realize that I belonged to them.”

Overview

This book is beautiful in its purest form. It’s lyrical, it oozes soul and it was a massive surprise for me. I am the first to admit I am not a great lover of non fiction. However, this has changed me. I went on a three mile walk with my dad and this book was all I could think about. It provides descriptions, poetry, recipes and tales of the inhabitants of the wood. It’s profound and I felt genuinely moved. I recommend it to anyone who wants to feel closer to nature, to have a moment of peace and tranquility. I’m off to find more of Stempel’s books.

If anyone has any suggestions for the next few months, please let me know! Topics can be found here.

Big love all! Enjoy the last day of May. Summer is approaching. Xx

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Filed under Book review, Read The Year Challenge

Happy 3rd Birthday!

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing really well and enjoying the best that May has to offer. I’ve reached half term! What a massive relief.

Anyway, today I received a really exciting notification.

I can’t believe my little blog is three years old! I’m quite shocked at how my little space on the web has evolved over the last three years. It’s something I’m incredibly proud of and I’m proud of being a part of this amazing community.

There’s so many bloggers I’d like to thank but I hope you know how important you are to me. We’re like a family on here and the support is overwhelming. Some of you have been with me since my first day and I’ll never forget that. To my newer followers, I can’t wait to get to know you better and join in with your journey too.

To mark the three years, I thought I would share three facts about me and blogging with you all.

  1. I’ve only ever reviewed about books I’ve bought myself. I take great enjoyment from visiting bookshops, feeling the books in my hand and buying them. There’s nothing better!
  2. I never follow a blogging schedule. I blog when I can and when I feel like it. There’s been times when life gets in the way and I just don’t seem to have the ability to find the words I need, so I’ve left it. That’s completely normal.
  3. I will always aspire to do better: to see more, to read more, to do something outside of my ordinary world. That’s why I started to blog about different places I’ve visited. I really enjoyed seeing beautiful photos from all around the world from many blogs on here. There isn’t enough time to see everything so I really appreciate those posts. I hope my posts about little visits give you an opportunity to see somewhere new. Just think about the beauty we can share together.

Lastly, my heartfelt thanks. Thank you for accepting me and my little space on the internet with open arms. You’re all wonderful.

Big love xxx

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The Storyteller Speaks – Annika Perry

Hello lovelies!

Sorry for the absence but we are in the thick of exam season and I’ve not been very well. My apologies. I do hope you’re all well and enjoying May. Time really is running away with us! It’s lovely to have such light evenings though.

Today I want to share with you a special book. My fellow blogger and friend Annika Perry published her first book, The Storyteller Speaks, and I’ve recently had the joy of reading it. I absolutely had to share it with you.

 

What’s it all about?

The Storyteller Speaks is a collection of short stories and poetry covering a wide range of such as love, loss and new beginnings. If you’re familiar with my reviews you’d know that I would review the whole plot. However, this being a collection of short stories has given me an opportunity to focus on my two favourites, the ones that have stayed with me. It’s also my first ever review of short stories. I hope I do this justice.

My first favourite is actually the first short story of the collection: Biding Her Time. This is such a sweet, innocent story with a fairytale ending. What’s not to like?

This piece of writing centres around Queenie and Thomas who meet as children at school. They’re quite competitive in the classroom; one being good at maths, the other producing an excellent critical essay. Everyone knew and waited to see who would be on top the next day. However, there wasn’t any animosity, quite the opposite in fact. They’re gentle and kind towards one another.

‘The infamous tales of Thomas and Queenie quickly spread across the small fishing island as the academic rivalled for first place in every subject.’

The two are rather smitten with each other, Queenie more so at first. She knew aged seven that she was in love. Thomas seems completely unaware of this. But, there are gestures from Thomas that are sweet and endearing. Every girl wants a boy to behave like a gentleman towards them, so I found this part really rather lovely. They’re childhood sweethearts, but Thomas doesn’t see it yet. On a cold day, Thomas gives her his gloves and walks her home, sharing with her his passion for fishing. She knew she liked him, we all can feel it.

‘She could bide her time.’

What I love about this story is the complete innocence surrounding it. Heartache appears when Thomas does not return to school because of the death of his father. Queenie is devastated and the tone of this story changes to grip our own hearts at his absence.

‘Without warning Queenie stood up. The chair screeched against the floor, and as silently as she arrived that morning she left, heading out into the warm sunshine. A warmth that failed to reach the chill in her heart.’

Life continues as it does for everyone but there is a change in Queenie. A spark from within her has diminished to an ember, only to be reignited on Thomas’s return. She waits patiently for him, watching, listening for him. Finally! At last! He returns and this rather marvellous short story, goes full circle, ending just as we want it to.

‘At that moment Thomas realised that this woman was destined to be his wife. She just didn’t know it yet.’

 

The second short piece which I really enjoyed was A Bouquet of White. I could personally relate to this story, arguably why I remember it and like it so much.

The story focuses on Ollie and begins with every day reminders of his Grandad. The reader doesn’t know quite what he’s done until we see his Grandmother’s (Margaret) reaction.

‘Get them out of here! Now, Ollie!… how dare you bring death into this house?’

Ollie is confused. In his eyes, he’s made a grand gesture to his Grandmother, showed her how much he cares and yet she reacts vehemently. Granted the gift, a bouquet of white lilies, weren’t honestly gained. Nevertheless, he had done it for her. However, to his Grandmother, she had been shocked to the core.

‘Margaret stood still for a long while, her breathing fast and shallow. Knees buckling, she pulled out a chair and sat by the table, by the discarded flowers.’

What is most endearing is the root cause of this reaction: her beloved late husband Dennis. The narrative moves to inform the reader of how Dennis used to bring these very flowers every Friday to her. Even after a stroke, he pushed himself to get his flowers for his wife. Only one time he didn’t make it and return to her.

‘…then glanced down the road. To Dennis, lying on the pavement, a jumper scrunched up under his head for a pillow, placed there by a kind passer by. Resting on his blazer were the lilies, the blasted lilies…’

Sadly albeit beautifully, we see a vivid description of the lilies at his funeral, the fact that they are so full of life when he was not. This flashback brought mixed feelings for Margaret. Led by the voice of Dennis in her head, she knew what she needed to do with her grandson.

‘With the tip of her fingers she lowered down the lid and shuffled indoors. Defeated.’

Whenever we miss someone or do something we regret, we turn to our friends which is exactly what happens with Ollie. By bumping into Allie, it helps him realise what he needs to do. Rather cleverly, the split narrative shows us Ollie and his Grandmother’s inner most thoughts and feelings. Ollie’s sweetness and naivety melted my heart a little. I could just about look past the fact that he’d stolen the flowers.

“He’d only thought the lilies would help fix her a bit. Fill the hole and bring some life into her. He’d messed up big time.”

When Ollie returned to his grandmother’s house, arms full of colourful flowers, they were both eager with their explanations and apologies. Together they devise a plan and the story ends with that plan being fulfilled. Ollie promises to work at the florist to pay back the cost of the flowers he stole and they put all the flowers up on Dennis’s grave. There is a real sense of everything falling into place, of wrong doing being fixed and love shining through. After all, it is only love that lasts. The most important lesson from this is they learn to understand each other.

‘She felt like a character from a black and white movie stepping into the technicolour of life.’

 

Overview

As I say, these are just two of my personal favourites from this collection as they cover two things that we shall all experience in life: love and death. They’re so well written that the voices stay with you. Across the whole book there are characters you feel you could know; they’re just so relatable. The variety of topics means that it appeals to everyone and I learnt about real life events I wasn’t aware of. A helpful touch is included at the back where we are able to read what inspired some of the pieces. It breaks down the wall of reader/writer because you become a part of it.

Annika, massive congratulations on your first book being published. It has a beautiful cover to match the beautifully crafted words inside. I urge you all to support a fellow blogger and read this eclectic array of delights.

Big love all!! Enjoy the Royal Wedding today! Xx

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Bank Holiday! A visit to Rievaulx Terrace

Hello lovely people!

It’s May! The sun is shining, the skies are the clearest blue and we have a three day weekend. What could be better? I hope you’re all soaking up the sunshine and enjoying this little break.

For me, I’m playing host to my lovely family who have come to stay. My parents are so important to me so I wanted to make sure they had a lovely time.

Yesterday, we had a little trip to Nunnington Hall which was just as beautiful as ever. I’ve visited here before – see here for more!

What came next was really rather special. We decided to continue driving for 8 miles to find Rievaulx Terrace. None of us had been before so we were really excited to be outside, exploring in the beautiful sunshine.

The Rievaulx Terrance was created by Thomas Duncombe II between 1749-57. It took one hundred men, eight years to finish. Incredible! He wanted it to be a place where he and his guests could see a distant view of the medieval abbey ruins in the valley below. He also placed two classical temples at either end of the terrace. This terrace was one of the earliest triumphs of the Picturesque movement for landscape gardening.

We walked through the woodland forest which was so tranquil. You could only hear the birds and the wind. There is something quite beautiful about that and the feeling it creates. Along the woodland are different sculptures as part of an exhibition. My favourites were the little owls in the tree and the hedgehogs.

When you come to the end of the woodland, you walk out onto a lush, green terrace. Just hiding at the bottom is the first of the classical temples: The Tuscan Temple.

The temple is closed to visitors, however the windows and mirrors provide you with view points. There is rich plasterwork inside, a painted roundel of a winged goddess. The tiles are 13th century from nearby Byland Abbey.

Arthur Young who visited in 1770 said: “Ruins generally appear best from a distance.” I have to say, I completely agree with him. I didn’t know what I expected from this place, but I was completely overwhelmed and in awe.

Every step you take reveals more of the ruins from below. It completely took my breath away. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen.

Photographs will never be able to do it justice. A photo can’t capture a feeling. Yet, I do hope it shows some sense of the wonder that this place creates and embodies.

Continuing the walk along the terrace brings you to the second temple: the Ionic Temple. Just when I thought this trip couldn’t get any better, we went inside.

Here the Duncombe family would have fed and entertained their guests. The interior is lavish and oozes elegance. I honestly have never seen anything like it in my life. I probably will never see anything like it again.

The frescoes show mythological scenes and are the creative work of Italian painter Giuseppe Mattia Borgnis, dated around 1753. The centre of the ceiling shows Aurora, Apollo and the Muses. It is beauty defined.

This day meant so much more than seeing beautiful places. It was time for my family and I to relax, breathe and restore and value our time together. The view and the temples were an added bonus. It was exceptional.

I wish you all a wonderful bank holiday. Enjoy the sunshine, you all deserve it!

Big love all xxx

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Filed under Days Out, National Trust, Photography, Places, UK

York Minster

Hi Lovelies!

I do hope you’ve all had a peaceful week. As April draws to a close, I found myself needing a weekend to recover and relax. Sometimes we all need that time to just stop and reflect. After a very lazy morning on Saturday, I decided to pop to York. I absolutely love it there: the cobbled streets, the eclectic mix of different shops and the beautiful Minster. (I am ashamed to say I’ve probably walked past it, looking up, at least a handful of times!)

As you approach the Minster, it is clear to see that it’s a magnificent piece of architecture. I really do feel like it’s incredible that buildings have stood through momentous historical events. Of course things change them, people and weather mainly, but they still stand tall and strong.

The Minster was built over 250 years, starting in 1220 and finishing in 1472. The first thing that got me was the fact that generations of people worked on this building to never see the end product. This building was the centre of so many lives, just as it is today.

My absolute favourite aspects were the many medieval stained glass windows. The detail, the stories and the conservation are just mind blowing. I found myself completely taken with them as I looked around. I personally liked The Great East Window. This is the size of a tennis court so it really isn’t a surprise that it caught my eye. More than half of the England’s medieval stained glass is at York Minster.

From the outside the glass looks divine, but it is once you are inside the pictures come to life. When the sun shines in it must create a rainbow like reflection. I also loved the glass which shows the Tudor Roses. Again, massive in size and colour, it sits proud at the top of the Minster.

Along with the glass, the ceilings are also incredible in design and colour. It feels so grand, so impressive. It’s awe inspiring to be within there. As I was walking around there was music playing in preparation for the Evening Song service. It was like a heart beating.

I found myself feeling incredible moved as I walked around. I had tears in my eyes for so many reasons. The numbers of men and women who died to save us in many battles and conflicts. The beauty that building creates even after a fire threatened to destroy it. The moment of reflection to think about my own loved ones and put everyday trials into perspective.

York Minster is the beating heart of the city. It is astounding in so many ways and I feel truly grateful to have seen it. After all, I am a firm believer in it is how a place makes you feel that stays with you longer than the sights of that place. This place with certainly stay with me.

Here’s to May everyone! I can’t quite believe it.

Big love. Xx

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RTY: Letters To A Young Poet – Rainer Maria Rilke

Hi Everyone!

This sunny weather has been a complete joy. I’m so grateful it’s here! Gone are the dark days, hello to sunglasses and summer wardrobes. This increased amount of daylight also means more reading time. Finally!! I hope you’ve all been soaking up the sun and making time for yourselves, you lovely people, you.

I’m going to review my book choice for Penguin’s Read The Year theme for April today. I’d read this at the start of the month but work is so demanding (exam season is fast approaching) so I haven’t had chance, but I’m here now! The topic for April was: Grab a book that will help you explore your creativity. I thought this book would be perfect because it’s all about a journey into writing poetry.

 

What’s it all about?

Firstly, this little book needs some context to it. These letters were collected three years after the death of Rainer Maria Rilke by the recipient, Franz Xaver Kappus. He was 19 at the time and at a military university when he first wrote to the poet to ask whether he believed his poems were any good and to see whether he should proceed any further. These letters formed a beautiful friendship.

These ten letters span over a two year period, with each starting with the various locations Rilke was writing from. Rilke wrote them when he was 27, stopping just before he was 30. These letters provide advice about being honest to yourself and the encouragement to continue in pursuing a creative career. Despite such support and praise, the men never met.

Each of the men attended the same university, so their grounds of their communication was born. The first letter is from Paris on February 17th, 1903. He writes about how he doesn’t believe in criticism and that the best thing a creative mind can do is listen to himself. A poem is good when the poet feels that it derives from necessity. It is at that point that the poet won’t feel the need to ask others for their opinions.

He writes that Franz’s poems are good but they are heavily influenced by Germany’s leading contemporary poets. The advice he offers is to look deeper into oneself. He explains how a good poem comes from connecting with one’s deepest and truest sui generis nature. This is most difficult to find in poems like love poems and is advised to stay away. Therefore, Franz would be better writing about his personal surroundings, even when it may seem the images aren’t exceptional enough to be in a poem.

“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.”

The second letter in the collection is from Italy. Rilke begins by apologising for the delay in response and reveals he has been fighting an illness. Having read Franz’s work, Rilke offers two pieces of practical advice: don’t over use irony and whilst composing a poem, have some inspiring works near by e.g The Bible which he uses whenever he has writer’s block. These inspirations will help with any stoppages in writing as it provides a change in focus.

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart…live in the question.”

One of the most famous letters is where the poet shares his angst about love, sex and his future careers which can all be used as inspiration for his poetry. Franz reveals his complete and utter loneliness. The advice is to produce something amazing. It is only in loneliness that one can be uncomfortably honest with oneself. Use it to flourish and grow.

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”

Throughout these letters we are also privy to some beautiful descriptions of foreign lands. Rome is described as a beautiful city and we see Rilke’s reaction to being here. Rome is full of beautiful paintings and astounding architecture. Despite this, Rilke is certain that if one can not find beauty in wherever they are, then one can only blame himself. The world is infinitely beautiful and if one is ever bored, it is because the individual is unwilling to exert some energy in seeing the world for what it really is. Go out and breathe it!

“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend.”

The following letter contains some lovely praise. He says there has been significant improvement in the young poet’s work. It is evident that Franz is deepening the personal knowledge he possesses and his work is something that only Franz could create. Of course, this is the real aim of writing poetry – expressing ones truest self. To show his appreciation and this movement to revealing oneself, Rilke transcribes the sonnet onto a blank sheet of paper. He claims this is often a useful tool for enhancing ones self awareness. I imagine you couldn’t get a higher form of praise in those days.

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”

Letter eight deals with loss. From Sweden, Rilke writes that whenever one is sad, one should use the time to reflect on reasons why they are sad. Usually, it is due to some form of loss. We are able to recognise the nature of that loss and we create room for something new to enter our lives. Again, this can be used to create beautiful pieces of work. Channel those experiences into something wonderfully written.

“Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don’t know what work these conditions are doing inside you? Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where all this is coming from and where it is going? Since you know, after all, that you are in the midst of transitions and you wished for nothing so much as to change.”

The next letter is arguably the most profound in its dealings as it is how to handle doubt during the creative process. Whether you are a poet or painter, any creative person would have experienced this. Rilke encourages the young poet it see doubt as an opportunity for further creative explorations, to enhance and develop. Even when one experiences such negative emotions, as long as they as intense, they are beneficial to the poet’s writing endeavours. They can be used to inspire more meaningful writing.

“Don’t be too quick to draw conclusions from what happens to you; simply let it happen. Otherwise it will be too easy for you to look with blame… at your past, which naturally has a share with everything that now meets you.”

The final letter holds deep congratulations as the young writer has decided to avoid a career in journalism and criticism. He writes that Franz seems more courageous and hope that these qualities only deepen in the years to come. He has grown as a writer and can now truly be himself.

 

Overview

What is fascinating is that these letters are probably the ‘truest’ thing I’ve read. Each of the emotions we probably have all felt. Self doubt is one of the hardest battles one can face and this advice is so reassuring. It’s really incredible to watch this young poet flourish over the course of these letters. Sometimes we all need a little reassurance and guidance to excel. This little book is so insightful. I believe it fits the criteria for Read The Year this month beautifully. It something I enjoyed reading and can take my lessons from it into my own life. I hope you can too.

Enjoy the sunshine everyone!

Big love xx

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Filed under Book review, Little Black Classics, Read The Year Challenge