Rainer Marie Rilke: Letters to a Young Poet 

In 1903, a student at a military academy sent some of his verses to a well-known Austrian poet, requesting an assessment of their value. The older artist, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926), replied to the novice in this series of letters — an amazing archive of remarkable insights into the ideas behind Rilke’s greatest poetry. The ten letters reproduced here were written during an important stage in Rilke’s artistic development, and they contain many of the themes that later appeared in his best works. The poet himself afterwards stated that his letters contained part of his creative genius, making this volume essential reading for scholars, poetry lovers, and anyone with an interest in Rilke, German poetry, or the creative impulse.

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Additional Writings by the Author: 

Compilation of Poetry (PDF)
Project Gutenberg Collection of Poetry (text)
On Love and Other Difficulties (PDF)

Eileen Myles: The Importance of Being Iceland 


Poet and post-punk heroine Eileen Myles has always operated in the art, writing, and queer performance scenes as a kind of observant flaneur. Like Baudelaire’s gentleman stroller, Myles travels the city–wandering on garbage-strewn New York streets in the heat of summer, drifting though the antiseptic malls of La Jolla, and riding in the van with Sister Spit–seeing it with a poet’s eye for detail and with the consciousness that writing about art and culture has always been a social gesture. Culled by the poet from twenty years of art writing, the essays in The Importance of Being Iceland make a lush document of her–and our–lives in these contemporary crowds. Framed by Myles’s account of her travels in Iceland, these essays posit inbetweenness as the most vital position from which to perceive culture as a whole, and a fluidity in national identity as the best model for writing and thinking about art and culture. The essays include fresh takes on Thoreau’s Cape Cod walk, working class speech, James Schulyer and Bj rk, queer Russia and Robert Smithson; how-tos on writing an avant-garde poem and driving a battered Japanese car that resembles a menopausal body; and opinions on such widely ranging subjects as filmmaker Sadie Benning, actor Daniel Day-Lewis, Ted Berrigan’s Sonnets, and flossing.
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Additional Resources

Author’s Website
Articles and Podcasts via Poetry Foundation
My Ten Favorite Books: Eileen Miles
The Poet Idolized by a New Generation of Feminists (profile)
Lecture: About Boston: Reading & Conversation with Eileen Myles (video)
Engadin Art Talks: Eileen Myles (video)
NYU Florence Talks: Eileen Myles (video)

Howard Zinn: Artists in Times of War 

“Political power,” says Howard Zinn, “is controlled by the corporate elite, and the arts are the locale for a kind of guerilla warfare in the sense that guerillas look for apertures and opportunities where they can have an effect.” In Artists in Times of War, Zinn looks at the possibilities to create such apertures through art, film, activism, publishing and through our everyday lives. In this collection of four essays, the author of A People’s History of the United States writes about why “To criticize the government is the highest act of patriotism.” Filled with quotes and examples from the likes of Bob Dylan, Mark Twain, e. e. cummings, Thomas Paine, Joseph Heller, and Emma Goldman, Zinn’s essays discuss America’s rich cultural counternarratives to war, so needed in these days of unchallenged U.S. militarism.
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Additional Resources: 

A People’s History of the United States (PDF)
Zinn Education Project
Author’s Website
Lecture: A People’s History of the United States, 1999 (video)
Lecture: How History Should be Taught in Schools, Studied and Written, 1997 (video)
Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn on Democracy Now, 2007 (video)
Lecture: On the Interpretation of History (video)