PF: Epistolary Poem

downloadLong before I knew the word “epistolary”, I loved epistolary novels. There’s something about reading a book written in documents, especially letters or diary entries, that appeals to me on every level. Perhaps it’s the guilty pleasure of reading some one else’s correspondence? The change in perspectives? I also love that the form is so versatile and  works well in so many sub-genres–children’s literature, fantasy, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, young adult literature, etc.

download.jpgI don’t remember the first such novel I read, but I distinctly remember being fascinated in college by the literary sensation “Griffin and Sabine.” (Does anyone else remember this book? It’s kind of like “The Jolly Postman” for adults.) In more recent years, I’ve read and loved 84, Charing Cross RoadSorcery and Cecilia, The Martian, The Perks of Being a Wallflower,  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Breakout, among others. Please send your favorite epistolary suggestions my way! Reading always appeals to me, but legitimately settling down to read someone else’s letters is especially delightful.

This month it was my turn to select the Swagger challenge, and my thoughts turned toward epistolary poems. A nice challenge with plenty of room for choice! Hopefully my fellow Swaggers agreed.  According to poets.org, “epistolary poems, from the Latin “epistula” for “letter,” are, quite literally, poems that read as letters. As poems of direct address, they can be intimate and colloquial or formal and measured. The subject matter can range from philosophical investigation to a declaration of love to a list of errands, and epistles can take any form, from heroic couplets to free verse.” (see more here)

We share our challenge poems on the first Friday of the month. While on the one hand April seemed to last an eternity this year, on the other hand, I completely lost track of time. May 1st snuck up on me and I found myself scrambling to create an epistolary poem in time to share today. To whom did I want to write? Did I want to write as myself or from a different perspective?

As I so often do, I turned to nature for my inspiration. One of the most welcome harbingers of spring for us is the blossoming of the Siberian squill, or scilla, on the hill up to our home. It’s an early blossoming flower and we look forward to its arrival every year. This year it’s been especially beautiful and we’ve been especially thankful to see a sign that spring is indeed coming.

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scilla

To the Unknown Gardener,

Early each spring
scilla spills,
flowing over the hill
in lush cobalt waves.
I often imagine you,
on a long ago day,
sifting soil through your fingers,
toiling beneath the trees.
Did you foresee
this future luminous river of blue
or did you simply glory
in the fall breeze on your skin,
the crinkling tissue
encapsulating each bulb,
and the satisfaction
of planting them
one by one?

Generosity thrives
in the soul of the gardener
who plants today
to gift tomorrow.
Each spring
we thank you.

Molly Hogan ©2020 (draft)

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You can find this week’s Poetry Roundup at Elizabeth Steinglass’s blog. She’s sharing a video of herself reading several poems from her fabulous book, Soccerverse:Poems About Soccer, along with some activities to do at home.

To see how my fellow Swaggers responded to this challenge, click on the links below:

Heidi Mordhorst–My Juicy Little Universe
Catherine Flynn–Reading to the Core
Margaret Simon–Reflections on the Teche
Linda Mitchell–A Word Edgewise

33 thoughts on “PF: Epistolary Poem

  1. […] Mordhorst–My Juicy Little UniverseCatherine Flynn–Reading to the CoreMolly Hogan–Nix the Comfort ZoneLinda Mitchell–A Word […]

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  2. Appreciations for these word images & the photo images to back them up. you caught my breath there at the end with “to gift tomorrow..” here we have so many sprouts & seedlings in pots, but now, I too think about the trees we’ve added through the years and the bulbs of hurricane lillies. i’ve never before thought ’bout the family coming here after us, say, 70 years hence. wow.

    on epistolary novels – I loved The Color Purple from the wonderful Alice Walker. I have also read & re-read 84, Charing Cross Road & I’ve liked that potato peel group.
    There is one I haven’t read about the Dionne Quints – author/name escapes me but something like The Quintland. Let us know if you decide to complie an epistolary list. i would love to come back for it.

    Dear Molly,
    Happy May Day
    Your Poetry Friday fan,
    Jan

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Jan! You have me intrigued by the idea of hurricane lillies! I’m going to have to check them out. I saw the movie, The Color Purple, but never read it. I might just need to rectify that.

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  3. Linda Mitchell says:

    Molly, I really enjoyed this challenge. I too love novels written as letters. There is a middle grade novel I love titled, ‘Dear Ellen Bee’ between Civil War spy Elizabeth Van Lew and her freed slave who returned to VA to spy for the Union. And, the Gurnsey Potato Peel Pie Society is really one of my favs.
    Your poem holds the feeling of wonder and joy which I read like taking medicine and feeling the relief. The little purple flowers…I love seeing them arrive too. I never knew their name. But, I am so grateful to the gardener who planted them. What a lovely noticing by you in this poem. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Oh, “Dear Ellen Bee” sounds great! I’ll add that to my list. (I miss my library sooooo much. I’ve already decided that I’m going to give them a donation when they reopen.)

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  4. Liz Steinglass says:

    I love epistolary books–Dear Juno and The Gardener leap to mind. I also love these lines: scilla spills,
    flowing over the hill
    in lush cobalt waves.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. lindabaie says:

    I love that you wrote the gardener, Molly, beautiful sentiment for your beautiful scilla, “flowing over the hill”. I love all those books you named, too & Griffin and Sabine & the sequels. My daughter & I enjoyed them together when they came out. Another one, for middle grades, that I’ve enjoyed is Same Sun Here by Silas House & Neela Vaswani, yes two writers, both writing as kids who become pen pals. Thanks for sharing so much today & Happy May!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is gorgeous! I love the same lines Liz did, I see. The internal rhyme and near rhyme and wonderful language…sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A beautiful flower and a beautiful poem, Molly. I especially love this sentiment:

    Generosity thrives
    in the soul of the gardener
    who plants today
    to gift tomorrow.

    The skeptic in me doubts it was a deliberate choice on their part, but wouldn’t it be great to be wrong! Thanks also for mentioning Griffin & Sabine! I haven’t thought about that book in ages.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Michelle. I wonder if I imagine the gardener planting for “tomorrow’s” viewers because my husband and I have always lived in 200+ year old homes. We feel like stewards, maintaining the house for the next occupants. Also, Griffin &Sabine was wonderful, wasn’t it?

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  8. This is so lovely, Molly. I’m with Michelle; those final lines are perfect! I wonder if this gorgeous photo of your scilla, which I loved on Facebook, worked it’s way into one of my poems this week. I have violets scattered around my yard, but your flowers really are sprinkling “the hillside like confetti.” Thank you the inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Catherine! I’ll have to go check out that poem. As much as I enjoy NPM, I know I miss so many wonderful poems from many of my favorite poets. There simply isn’t enough time to read everything!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. maryleehahn says:

    Even though the word “stewardship” doesn’t show up until your comments, I think that’s an important theme here: caring for the land and for the story of our human interaction with the land. Which can mean restoring old houses or writing the next chapter about how we turn around global warming.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Interesting point, Mary Lee. We find living on old properties and in old houses is such a rich experience–there are so many layers and the ghosts of storied lives linger–in a good way.

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  10. Heidi says:

    100% serious that this one should live on a plaque nestled among the scilla! The first photo (and maybe the expanse suggested to me by the word Siberian) made me think they were big, like irises, but look–they’re tiny, spreading like a river! I appreciate the care you took with word choices throughout. Lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a gorgeous flower! Gardening is a patient thing, anticipating and encouraging future beauty. “Generosity thrives/in the soul of the gardener.” Beautiful poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. kareneastlund4898 says:

    This is lovely, Molly! I loved 31 Charing Cross and Guernsey Potato Pie… there is something about reading others’ mail, right? This is a good challenge and I will definitely try it. Yours is lovely, as are the blue flowers, which I have never seen before. They remind me of Virginia bluebells which flower about this time also.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Karen. Somewhere I just saw a stunning picture of a field of Virginia bluebells. Siberian squill are only about 3-6 inches tall though. Am I right that bluebells are taller?

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  13. kareneastlund4898 says:

    Ok, so it’s 84 Charing Cross… haha. not much sleep last night.

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  14. Sally Murphy says:

    Lovely Molly. I have enjoyed reading the various results of your challenge, and yours especially.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. cvarsalona says:

    Molly, I sometimes wonder how my plants bloom when I did not plant them in the spot they are in. I imagine nature plunking them there as a secret plan to make me smile. You made me smile this morning with your poem. Just like Michelle and I imagine others your ending is beautifully written as an inspirational piece:
    Generosity thrives
    in the soul of the gardener
    who plants today
    to gift tomorrow.
    This would be a wonderful poem for Earth Day.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Kay Mcgriff says:

    Yes, gardeners have generous hearts–and so do poets who brilliantly capture such beauty! You named my favorite epistolary novel–Sorcery and Cecilia.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I found your post on another writer’s site. I would never have found it otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

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