Epistolary Poetry FAQ

  • What is epistolary poetry?
    The genre of epistolary poetry traces back to the Roman lyric poet Horace, who wrote during the time of Augustus. From there the genre has evolved through the ages, and has become known as letter poetry, though modern epistolary poems are not strictly defined and are actually very loose in form, with the poets themselves each contributing their own interpretations of the genre. As a whole, I would define the genre of epistolary poetry as that which is addressed to something or someone, with the audience being both inside and out of the poem.
  • How do I write an epistolary poem?
    There is no set formula to write a letter poem – the best way is to write down a lot of things or people you’d like to talk to. Maybe a friend, a parent, or maybe your computer or pen. It can truly be anything! My collection includes poems to my eyes, friends, strangers, and inanimate objects – be creative and be BRAVE!

  • Where can I find other epistolary poetry?
    I used a vast number of resources to craft my collection, ranging from Horace’s epistles to Ted Hughes Birthday Letters. I didn’t limit myself to strictly epistolary poetry, but also real letters by famous writers and poems that were definitively “to” or “about” a person/place/thing – such as Neruda’s Odes. My bibliography includes, but is not limited to:

    Duncan, Robert. Letters: Poems 1953-56. Chicago: Flood Editions, 2003.
    Brock-Broido, Lucie. The Master Letters. New York: Knopf Publishing, 1997.
    de Pretis, Anna. “Epistolarity” in the First Book of Horace’s Epistles. Piscataway: Gorgias,
    2002.
    Dickinson, Emily. Emily Dickinson: Selected Letters. Ed. Thomas H. Johnson. Cambridge:
    Belknap, 2000.
    Dickinson, Emily. The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson. Ed. Rachel Wetzsteon. New York:
    Barnes and Noble, 2003.
    Dickinson. Emily. The Master Letters, Ed. R.W. Franklin, Amherst: UMass Press, 1986.
    Di Prima, Diane. Revolutionary Letter. San Francisco: Last Gasp, 2007.
    Dowling, W.C. The Epistolary Moment. The Poetics of 18th Century Verse Epistle. Princeton
    UP, 1991.
    Ferry, David. The Epistles of Horace: Bilingual Edition. New York, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux,
    2002.
    Ferry, David. The Odes of Horace: Bilingual Edition. New York, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux,
    1998.
    Harrison, Jim. Letters to Yesenin. Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 2007.
    Haynes, John. Letters to Patience. Bridgend: Seren, 2006.
    Hughes, Ted. Birthday Letters. London: Faber Faber, 2002.
    James, Thomas. Letters to a Stranger. St. Paul: Graywolf Press, 2008.
    Neruda, Pablo. Odes to Common Things. New York: Bulfinch Press, 1994.
    Neruda, Pablo. Odes to Opposites. New York: Bulfinch Press, 1995.