Our last round of Epistles at Dawn focuses primarily on one main set of duelers – Elizabeth Allen and Mark Riboldi – who entered into a delightful correspondence through poetry. It was exciting to witness the exchange because each poet picked up on an image or idea from their counterpart and transformed it into something else entirely – quirky, tender, and occasionally bizarre.
The budding romance in Elizabeth’s My Love was like a newborn was answered by Mark’s excruciating depiction of an internet date in The Graduate, the awkwardness of which was in turn picked up by Elizabeth’s Disclosure, itself all the inspiration Mark needed to strip off for Hairy Legs. Remarkably, the absurd and surreal nature of Mark’s poem was transformed in the answering Jetty into a meditation on loss and grief, finally answered in Like Silver Spoons, a poem about a friend’s impending death.
This next round of Epistles are not as tightly focussed as the exchange between Elizabeth and Mark – with two exceptions. Michele Seminara’s Words in Air continues the conversation-in-centos that she and Stuart Barnes started last year, in their remixes of poems by Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, this time they are drawing on the letters of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. But Michele and Stuart’s earlier correspondence has also been eavesdropped upon and interrupted by Joel Ephraims, in his poem Wodwo is Me, which cheekily takes up with Ted Hughes’ Wild Man, Wodwo himself.
The poems in this round of Epistles at Dawn are written with different kinds of recipients in mind. Some of these are other, older, (deader) poets – such as Toby Fitch’s from In Fancy, which inverts Rimbaud – more often, they are lovers, past or present – as with Louise Carter’s The Come Down and Eileen Chong’s Flame. In all cases, the poems are fiery (see what I did there?) and fiercely personal – as all of the best letters are – and I’m delighted to share them with you.