poem index

Write a letter to a poet


April 26, 2011
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Let the poets who you are reading know that you appreciate their work by sending them a letter. If there is a poem that you keep with you as a Life Line, tell its author that. Or your note can be as simple as a question.

Poets are just as often the ones writing fan letters—as in one of Marianne Moore's letters to E. E. Cummings, who she addresses coyly as:

Dear Mr. Cummings—blasphemous, inexorable, disrespectful, sinful author though you are—you received a cordial welcome at my door today.

Letter-writing is also a great activity to take on in the classroom, as many students' letters have sparked long-lasting mentorships. For example, in Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke sets out to advise a student, Franz Xaver Kappus, on his future but ends up presenting one of the most lurid explanations of his own aesthetic that he ever wrote. And none of it would have been written had Kappus not initiated the conversation.

Many poets will post their contact information on their websites or blogs. This is often the simplest way to get in touch with an author. If the poet works at an academic institution, he or she will often be listed in the faculty directory. Poets & Writers also provides a directory of writers willing to provide their information to the public.

If your search does not reveal a direct e-mail or mailing address, another option is to get in touch with the poet's publisher. Even if the poet in question is unavailable or deceased, the gesture of writing a letter can bring you closer to his or her work.