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Rainer Maria Rilke Biography | Poet

Photo of Rainer Maria Rilke

Few poets of the German language are as well-known today as Rainer Maria Rilke. He was born as René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke, and his poetic identity represents a pragmatic shortening of his very long name. He was born on the 4th of December in 1875 and died on the 29th of December in 1926. He was born in Prague in the Czech Republic and died in Montreux, Switzerland. His burial location is Raron Churchyard, Raron, Switzerland.

The Education of Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke's health problems managed to haunt him throughout most of his life. They managed to cut short his education at a military boarding academy. He briefly attended Charles-Ferdinand University as a philosophy student, but he lost interest in his studies fairly quickly. Some poets in his situation have found that these sorts of studies will inspire them. Other poets in this situation will just feel stifled, as if they cannot complete the work that they really want to do as a result of having the adhere to the schedules and demands of university life. Rainer Maria Rilke learned most of what he needed to learn to become a poet in the literary circles in Munich, and not through formal education.

Life and Times

Some poets have more or less stayed in one place for their entire lives. Rainer Maria Rilke has the distinction of being much more well-traveled than many of his contemporaries. His home and family life was troubled, since his mother mourned the loss of his little sister and his father experienced various professional setbacks. Things got better for Rainer Maria Rilke when he managed to strike out on his own. He was able to find more success and happiness with his own talent.


The Book of Hours is one of his most famous works. The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge is another, as is Sonnets to Orpheus. Of course, his work Letters to a Young poet has been the subject of more discussion and parody than many of the others. Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in French as well as German, although his German poetry is more famous today. People should be able to find translations of everything that he wrote.

The Significance of Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke is regarded as one of the most important German poets today partly because of his very distinctive style. He is a poet who used a lot of symbols that were physical rather than intellectual, which made his poems very different from many of the poems that were out there. Intellectual symbols had often been standard, and he broke away from that to a certain extent. Few poets have ever used the sort of syntax that he did.

Rainer Maria Rilke is also notable for more or less rejecting Christianity both as a lifestyle and belief system, and as a source of inspiration for his poetry. For him, art was God. He was very much the sort of extremely expressive artist who was interested in turning the worst experiences in life into art as a way of changing them and making them better. This philosophy guided the poetry that he created in a meta way as well as a literal way.

However, many German people at the time were exploring their folk traditions with a great deal of enthusiasm, and Rainer Maria Rilke's poetry certainly reflects that trend as well. The traditionalism of the nineteenth century was giving way to the modernism of the twentieth century, and Rainer Maria Rilke's poetry more or less helped create a bridge between those two philosophical moments in time. He was caught between two worlds, which just made his poetry that much more compelling.

New Age and self-help writers still love his work, although they possibly love it for the wrong reasons. People today are perched between two worlds in many ways, and the struggle that he was able to create makes things interesting and easy to understand. The use of physical metaphors for the non-physical also has a great deal of appeal for people who believe in the interconnection between all things. 

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