Experimenting with Epistolary Form

During this time of lockdown and isolation, how might words fill the spaces that set us apart, stretching across and perhaps collapsing the distances between one body and another? How might we substitute touch with speech? And, additionally, how might the form of the letter—with its slowness, its materiality—be an important mode of written communication in 2021? Can the hand-written or digital letter be a kind of prosthetic body? The epistle—which comes from the Greek epistolē, meaning “letter”—has long been a generative way to compose texts: Mary Shelley, for instance, began her first novel Frankenstein in the form of letters. In this generative, five-week online workshop, we’ll experiment playfully with the form, using the letter as a form of departure to think about text and material, word and body, and how these things infuse with questions the relational spaces between us. We’ll explore the letter through various lenses, using the love letter, the letter of complaint, mail art and the epistolary novel as ways to generate a series of new written works, which we’ll workshop every week. Class sessions will meet synchronously via Zoom every Tuesday, and assignments, poems and critiques will be shared via Wet Ink.

Workshop Details


Simone Kearney is a New York based writer and artist. She is the author of Days (Belladonna Press, 2020), My Ida (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2017) and In Threes, a limited-edition artist chapbook (Minute BOOKS, 2013). She was a 2014 recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in poetry and a 2010 recipient of an Amy Award from Poets & Writers. Her work often involves collaboration and the translation of content across media. Two recent collaborative and interdisciplinary projects include a combination of text, still photography and video: “One Sings, The Other Doesn’t” (Precog Magazine, 2020), with the artist and writer Xiaofu Effy Wang: and “Desire Lines,” a performative translation of the philosopher Sara Ahmed’s work into movement and material, with the artist and scholar Sophie Seita, performed at Boston University in the spring of 2020. She has exhibited her artwork and/or given multidisciplinary performances in New York, Boston, Connecticut, Baltimore, Ohio, London and Cork. Most recently, her work was on view at Klaus Von Nichtssagend Gallery in the Lower East Side. She teaches at Parsons School of Design and Rutgers University.