I Am Always Writing to Someone

The Letter as/in Poetry [Online Workshop]

The letter is a great literary tradition, both as a device in works of fiction (Frankenstein, Howard’s End) and, through the correspondence of writers, as a tremendous reservoir of craft and wisdom. But the poem is also always a letter to someone, and the anchoring presence of a specific addressee, their name at the top of the page, can free us as writers and demand we challenge our voices in new ways. In this online workshop, we’ll draw from the letters of Keats, Rilke, Elizabeth Bishop/Robert Lowell, Rickey Laurentiis/Solmaz Sharif and more to inspire us as we write poems that cast themselves as letters, and letters that cast themselves as poems. Additionally, in recognition that the time we have for our craft is most often limited and that much of our writing (emails, texts) can feel far from poetry, we will consider how our daily missives might be treated as poetic acts, for the benefit of both their receivers and their writers. In writing postcard poems and poetic epistles, we’ll also consider the poem as ephemera: how a work of poetry can be all the more potent for its evanescence, and how we can dethrone the preciousness of the poetic artifact to make it all the more powerful in the world. Weekly work for the course will be done asynchronously on Wet Ink, and the professor will provide video introductions to material and a one-on-one Facetime conference with each student.

Workshop Details


Jay Deshpande is the author of Love the Stranger (YesYes Books, 2015), named one of the top debuts of 2015 by Poets & Writers, and the chapbook The Rest of the Body (YesYes Books, 2017). A Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and the winner of the Scotti Merrill Memorial Award and Narrative‘s Annual Poetry Contest, he has also received fellowships from Kundiman, Civitella Ranieri and the Key West Literary Seminar. His poems have recently appeared in Denver Quarterly, Washington Square, LARB Quarterly Journal and Horsethief. He holds a BA in English from Harvard and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, and he has taught workshops for Poets House, the Academy of American Poets, Rutgers and the MFA program at Columbia University.