The History of Literature #237 – Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (with Amanda Stern)

In the autumn of 1902, a young man attending a German military school wrote to the poet Rainer Maria Rilke to ask him for some advice. Rilke responded, and the two struck up a correspondence that has become one of the great moments in the history of literature. For more than a century, Rilke’s advice, conveyed in ten letters and published as Letters to a Young Poet, has helped readers find answers to questions about literature, creativity, and the nature of existence. In this episode, Jacke is joined by author and literary impresario Amanda Stern for a conversation about her literary career, the struggles she had growing up with an undiagnosed panic disorder, and the impact that Letters to a Young Poet had on her.

RAINER MARIA RILKE (1875-1926) was a German modernist poet whose innovative approach to poetry, expressed in poems like “The Panther,” “Torso of an Archaic Apollo,” and the collections Sonnets to Orpheus and The Duino Elegies, made him a leader in a style of poetry called “existential materialism” and a profound influence on subsequent generations of poets.

AMANDA STERN is a native New Yorker, a novelist, a children’s book author, and the host of the podcast Bookable. For years, she was the organizer of The Happy Ending music and literary reading series, which encouraged writers to take risks on stage. Her memoir Little Panic: Dispatches from an Anxious Life has been called “a creative feat and existential service of the highest caliber.”

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“Running Fanfare” by Kevin MacLeod (

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

Photo of Amanda Stern by Jon Pack

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