NYC Poetry Festival | Revolutionary Letters, Confronting the Times


Epistles are letters written as poems, providing a tactile sense of intimacy and resonant accessibility, an interplay between internal and external dialogue, reader as recipient and voyeur. For this Olio, we will use selections from Diane di Prima’s Revolutionary Letters as in inroad to the epistolary form. Appearing in various, ever-lengthening editions throughout the 1960s and 70s, these letters are part chant, part warrior cry, part plea, and part instructional guide. If we read these poems as their titles imply, as letters, who then is being addressed? Who is speaking? Di Prima’s work seeks to confront the immediate history of her time while looking forward to ours.


In addition to engaging the personal and historical context of Di Prima’s work, we will also examine a short series of epistles by other poets, including Jack Spicer, Bernadette Mayer, Evie Shockley, and Langston Hughes, and consider recent phenomena such as text message poems and collaboratively written twitter novels. What is the relevance of Epistle form in the digital era? And particularly in a time of political vigilance, when many are organizing letter-writing campaigns to Congress? How might we practice letter-writing as both art and activism?

Finally, using our examples as a flash point, we will free-write on the spot and compose our own epistles. Packets of Di Prima’s poems as well as additional epistles and writing exercises will be provided, as will blank Olio postcards, designed for the occasion, which we will use for our brief free-writing exercise. We will also have on hand the names and addresses of locally and nationally elected officials, public servants, and community organizations, should we want to put our poetic activism to work.




Location: Governors Island

Governors Island

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Other upcoming Olios


Jul 21

Olio Breakfast Club | The Stranger

Taught by Patricia Kim
10 a.m. at Greenberg's Bagels @ North 3rd St. Market

Sign Up - $25

Jul 23

The American Soundscape

Taught by Christina Katopodis
7 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Jul 25

Frida's Fragrance: Art, Scent, & Persona

Taught by Jessica Murphy
7:30 p.m. at The William Vale Hotel

Sign Up - $20

Jul 31

Prospect Park Philosophy | Art vs. Reality

Taught by Geoff Klock
7:15 p.m. at Prospect Park (Grand Army Entrance)

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Aug 2

OlioHouse Weekend | Midsummer Night’s Dream

Taught by Geoff Klock
7:30 p.m. at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

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Aug 14

The Allure of Masculinity

Taught by Kim Nguyen
7:30 p.m. at The Assemblage | NoMad

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Aug 17

OlioHouse Weekend | Scenius (Un)Skillshare

Taught by Lauren Hudson
2 p.m. at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $100

Aug 20

Dementia Americana: The Persistence of Forgetting

Taught by Ward Regan
7:30 p.m. at Nowadays

Sign Up - $15

Aug 21

Philosophy Club | "God is Dead"

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7:30 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Sep 19

OlioTrip | Cienfuegos, Cuba

Taught by Teresita Levy
10 a.m. at Cienfuegos, Cuba

Sign Up - $


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