Tim Binder writes about Anne Ryland’s poetry workshop

Twelve of us “gathered” on Zoom for Anne Ryland’s delightful workshop on writing an Epistolary poem – or writing a letter in poetry.

In addition to bringing a letter that meant something to us, Anne had asked that we read just such a poem by Neil Curry from his book of poetry “Some Letters Never Sent” and this gave us a good introduction to the subject.

Anne took us through some of the history of the genre (it ranged from Horace and Ovid down to the present day) and she also touched of some of the benefits of such poetry. It allows the writer to touch on difficult issues, to correspond with a person or people – living or dead. It also becomes the vehicle for the writer to explore a range of emotions and aspects of life including fears, hopes, dreams, regrets and ambitions – no wonder it is seen as a powerful form of therapy.

Four exercises followed. The first was to write a few lines based upon a picture, the second was to write a letter to ourselves, the third was to write to a character from a book, or a film, or from history, and the final exercise was to use the personal letters that we had been asked to bring with us.

Notes from Anne gave us prompts such as the reason for writing – was it to say thanks, to complain, to clarify something? The tone of the letter would have been determined by the reason for writing it. Our personal letters became a resource from which we made notes on possible themes and styles of the letter. By the end of the workshop we had all produced and read a first draft of our efforts.

This is a subject with much depth and breadth and we were fortunate indeed to have Anne as our guide through it. Now all we have to do is put what we learned into practice, to polish our first draft and produce an Epistolary Poem that we can send to Anne for critiquing. No pressure there!

Mike Fraser