Rilke by Mail:  A Course in Letters

Rilke by Mail is an eight-week course on the poetry and prose of Rainer Maria Rilke which will be taught in a series of weekly letters students will receive in the postal mail.  In addition to the letters, there will be three online discussions held via Zoom.  The course runs from April 1 to May 30, 2021, and there will optional writing assignments you can do on your own.

This course is meant as a study guide to the poetry and prose of one of the most important 20th century German-language poets whose visionary work is situated between Romanticism and Modernism.  Students in the course will receive eight original short essays by me which will help to ground you in your reading and guide you through Rilke’s poems and prose.  At the end of each letter, you will receive a prompt for a writing assignment you can do on your own.  We will also have three interactive discussions via Zoom during which I’ll give a short talk, and then answer questions and facilitate a discussion.  These will be recorded, so if you cannot attend the online discussions, you will receive a link to the recordings.

Each week for eight weeks, students will be sent a letter via US postal mail.  Waiting to receive the letter is part of the experience–one of anticipation followed by the pleasure of opening and reading the material.  As part of the experience, you may need to be patient as the letter makes its way to you, but the course is designed for you to do the work at your own pace, whenever you want.  You will not be sending finished assignments to me; the course is meant as a reading guide and a support for independent study and writing, though will will come together online for the three discussions.

There are five texts we will use for the course:

  • Letters to a Young Poet, translated by M.D. Herter.  WW Norton, 1993.
  • Duino Elegies: a bilingual edition, translated by Edward Snow, North Point Press, 2001.
  • The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke: Bilingual Edition.  Translated by Stephen Mitchell, Vintage 1989.
  • Don Paterson, Orpheus: A version of Rilke’s Die Sonette an Orpheus, Faber & Faber, 2006.
  • The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, translated by Burton Pike, Dalkey Archive Press, 2008.

Online discussion dates (please note these will be recorded for those who cannot attend at these times):

  • Wednesday, April 21, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm EST.
  • Wednesday, May 5, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm EST.
  • Wednesday, May 19, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm EST.

Tuition for the course is $175.  If you are interested in registering, please email  Payment can be made by PayPal, Venmo, or by mailing a check.  Limited scholarships are available for those in financial need.

Portrait of Rainer Maria Rilke, by Paula Modersohn Becker.