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Poetry Month, Reader’s Den

The Reader's Den: Epistolary Poetry for April

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Dearest Reader,

The Den is warm today
With April sun
Just in time
For Poetry Month!

So I write you this letter
To introduce
Epistolary poetry
And ask if you will
Write back to me too!

Epistolary poetry is basically a letter in the form of a poem. This type of poetry was popularized with Horace and his Epistles in the time of the Roman Empire, was used by Alexander Pope and Lord Byron, and has continued as a popular form in contemporary poetry. Visit the literary journal Poemeleon’s epistolary issue for contemporary letter poems and check out Poets.org for a brief but detailed description of the epistle form of poetry.
One epistolary poem you may be already familiar with is by William Carlos Williams. It begins:

"This Is Just To Say"
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
Continue reading...

It is a simple note confessing to his wife his indiscretion, while not actually asking for forgiveness.

And, one of my favorites, by poet/singer/songwriter, Leonard Cohen, addresses an old friend, asking him to put their pasts behind them. It begins:

"Famous Blue Raincoat"

It’s four in the morning, the end of December
I’m writing you now just to see if your better
New York is cold, but I like where I’m living
There’s music on Clinton Street all through the evening.
Continue reading...

  • Both Williams’ and Cohen’s poems have a confessional quality, but how are they different?
  • Can you think of any love poems that are epistolary?
  • Do you have a favorite epistolary poem or poet to share?

Also, visit the collections of these poets to read more great epistolary poetry:

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