poem index

Poets' Letters



Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov. Langston Hughes and Bessie Head. These poets shared meaningful correspondence at times spanning decades.

Check out Poets.org's expanding collection of poets' letters—and how they drew from the epistolary form in their poetry.


Epistolary poems, from the Latin "epistula" for "letter," are, quite literally, poems that read as letters. Find out more about the epistolary form as it's employed in the following poems:

My Grandma's Love Letters
by Hart Crane
Consider the Hands that Write This Letter
by Aracelis Girmay
On the Persistence of the Letter as a Form
by Paul Guest
My Father's Love Letters 
by Yusef Komunyakaa
Letter from Town: The Almond Tree
by D.H. Lawrence
Self-Portrait as Letter Addressed to Self
by J. Michael Martinez
The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter
by Ezra Pound
The Letter
Mary Ruefle
Letter Home
by Natasha Trethewey
Letter Already Broadcast into Space
by Jake Adam York
Love Letters 

Explore the love letters of poets, including Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles Olson, W. B. Yeats, and others.

The Letter Q 

Poets.org asked several queer poets to write letters to their younger selves, including Ching-In Chen, Dawn Lundy Martin, Eileen Myles, Ely Shipley, Stacy Szymaszek, and Timothy Liu.

Dear Poet Project 

This April, during National Poetry Month 2013, the Academy of American Poets is celebrating the role that correspondence has played in poets' development and writing lives.

In the spirit of Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, in which Rilke replies to letters from a young military cadet and aspiring poet asking for his advice, we are inviting students to engage with poetry by handwriting letters to some of the poets who serve on the Academy's Board of Chancellors.

Find out how to participate, and browse letters from student poets >

Letter to a Young Poet 

{C} "There is only one way: Go within. Search for the cause, find the impetus that bids you write. Put it to this test: ...Can you avow that you would die if you were forbidden to write?"


Read Rainer Maria Rilke's letter of advice to Franz Kappus, a 19-year-old budding poet studying at Rilke's Alma Mater.

From the Archive 


Poets.org Asks: 


Brenda Hillman, D. Nurkse, Marilyn Hacker, Matt Rasmussen, Patricia Smith, and Randall Mann discuss their most meaningful written correspondence.