Main content

Michael Symmons Roberts

Taking Rilke's correspondence as inspiration, 2014 TS Eliot Prize nominee Michael Symmons Roberts writes a personal letter to a young poet.

Taking Rilke's classic correspondence as inspiration, five leading poets write a personal letter to a young poet. Today, to coincide with the announcement of the T S Eliot Prize, shortlisted poet Michael Symmons Roberts writes a letter about poetry that dares the depths.

The original Letters to a Young Poet is a compilation of letters by Rainer Maria Rilke, written between 1902 and 1908 to a 19-year-old officer cadet called Franz Kappus. Kappus was trying to choose between a literary career and entering the Austro-Hungarian army. Rilke's letters touch on poetry and criticism, but they range widely in subject matter from atheism and loneliness, to friendship and sexuality:

"If your everyday life seems to lack material, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to summon up its riches; for there is no lack for him who creates and no poor, trivial place."

In their new letters, five poets imagine a young poet protégé to whom they want to pass on life experience and thoughts about the poetic art.

Our poets are: Michael Symmons Roberts, Vicki Feaver, Michael Longley, Moniza Alvi and Don Paterson.

About Michael Symmons Roberts: Roberts's latest collection Drysalter (Cape 2013) won the 2013 Forward Prize and is on the shortlist for both the T S Eliot Prize and the Costa Poetry Award. He is a leading poet, librettist, novelist, radio dramatist and broadcaster. Previous collections include The Half-Healed, Corpus and Burning Babylon.

First broadcast in January 2014.

Available now

15 minutes

Last on

Mon 18 Aug 2014 22:45

More episodes


You are at the first episode

See all episodes from The Essay


The Book that Changed Me

The Book that Changed Me

Five figures from the arts and science introduce books that changed their lives and work.

Download The Essay

Download The Essay

Download all the episodes from the series and listen at your leisure.