Do poems come from your heart or your mind?

—Janet, Grade 7

Always both, and also from my ear and my tongue and my feet and hands and hips. Someone once called poetry “thinking with your whole body.” That is the job of poems—to think with the whole body and the whole life. 

—Jane Hirshfield

For National Poetry Month 2017, we presented Dear Poet, a multimedia education project that invited young people in grades five through twelve to write letters in response to poems written and read by some of the award-winning poets who serve on the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors.

We received over 2,000 letters this year—far more than ever before—and were deeply impressed by the close personal connections students drew with the poems and by the range of thoughtfulness, creativity, humor, and wisdom displayed in the letters. We’re excited to share a selection of their letters alongside responses from Mark Doty, Linda Gregerson, Juan Felipe Herrera, Brenda Hillman, Jane Hirshfield, Marilyn Nelson, Alicia Ostriker, Alberto Ríos, Arthur Sze, and Anne Waldman.

read the 2017 dear poet letters