I’m sure, as writers, we sometimes feel compelled to write a letter to someone—as a way to organize our thoughts and say it “just right”—rather than try to explain what we are feeling or thinking out loud. This issue of Poemeleon is titled “The Epistolary Issue.” Each of the writers in this issue uses this form of poetry in different ways, some even explain it with a short intro.
Scott Beal uses a letter addressed to an “unwitting bystander” to express and understand his feelings regarding a recent marital separation. “Taking the confidence of the person farthest removed from either situation helped me to dig into my twin feelings of guilt over this woman’s anonymous accusation and the ways I had let my marriage dissolve,” he says. “Dear Mark Strausbaugh, Dining Room Manager,” starts:
I found your business card tucked under my windshield wiper.
A woman had written on the back in leaning script:
“Thank you for giving the ice cream guy
my wallet but shame on you for taking
all my money.” . . .
He, however, did not take the money, didn’t give the wallet to the ice cream man, and didn’t even see the wallet. Yet, he feels guilty. He expresses his feelings toward the situation and his failed marriage perfectly in the last few lines:
that love, it’s a vacuum, there’s no mass in it
and I never saw the ice cream guy, I can’t rush back with a fistful
of pilfered bills and say here, love, it was all a mistake,
this is yours, love, and I didn’t mean to keep it
pocketed with this hand-scrawled card that tells me all I need
to feel: Thanks and shame. Thanks. And shame.
Barbara Lydecker Crane uses the epistolary form to speak in a voice that is not her own. In her poem, “Yours in Faith, Aaron Brede,” she writes as a Shaker man to Mother Ann, the founder of the Shaker communities. “As I wrote,” she says, “I began to feel as though I knew young Brede—his religious devotion, his awakening to love, and his quandary. At the end of the poem I could almost see Aaron quickly penning the words of his sudden conviction.”
Anthony Frame, in a fit of insomnia, decides to write an email to his brother, which he later turns into his contributing poem, “Late Nate Email to my Brother.” He claims that “some of this story is true and some of it is a lie.” My favorite lines are:
You should stop by, see the new house. I think my poems are seeping into the carpet—no stain guard.
Vonnegut said to write for one person— Nick, will you read my book? No one else will see, but you’re on every page.
Kathleen Lynch uses the letter form to “convey something to someone [she] couldn’t possibly reach by normal means. Usually, the dead.” Growing up as a child without grandparents, Lynch writes this poem as a letter to an unmet grandmother:
. . . I’d pretend we’d come to visit, and you’d rush us
with your wide embrace, and somehow I’d be the one
who would end up on your lap, and you’d untwine my
waist-long braids, brush and brush until my hair
rose up electric to meet your hand.
That dream’s behind me now, but the afterlife of its wish
burrowed in as if it had come true. I will say this: I love
knowing that once you carried my mother in your body,
and she was born with half of me in her, and that means
in a way I lived in you once, like a picture waiting in an
undeveloped roll. . . .
There are many, many more epistolary poems in this issue along with essays and interviews dealing with the subject matter. Poemeleon features a different kind of poetry with each issue, which ensures that each issue is and offers something new and different.