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

This summer the Poetry Society of New York is teaming up with Think Olio to bring you the New York City Poetry Festival's first annual Tree Stump University, an outdoor educational venue for adults.

Interdisciplinary Learning with the Best Professors

Think Olio is not about learning a new skill or adding credentials to your resume. It is about getting together with other people and expanding our worldview. It exists as a conduit for fruitful discussions, a dissent from the regurgitation of facts, and an embrace of new perspectives.

Learn about joining the Scenius for $10 / month

Other upcoming Olios

Apr 24


Taught by Jeanne Proust
7:30 p.m. at Berg'n

Sign Up - $15

Apr 25

Art or Image?

Taught by Vishwa Adluri
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Apr 27

OlioHouse | Found Poetry: Literary Collages in Ordinary Places

Taught by Heather O'Neill
noon at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

May 3

The Holy Fool

Taught by Geoff Klock
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

May 7

Olio Movie Night | Eraserhead

Taught by Geoff Klock
8 p.m. at Nitehawk Cinema Williamsburg

Sign Up - $0

May 10

Cuba and The Commu-Capitalist Reality of Today

Taught by Teresita Levy
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

May 15


Taught by Skye Cleary
7:30 p.m. at Berg'n

Sign Up - $20

May 22

Stoicism in a World out of Your Control

Taught by Massimo Pigliucci
7:30 p.m. at The Assemblage | NoMad

Sign Up - $20

May 24

Sex, Pleasure & Intimacy in the Time of Capitalism

Taught by Kim Nguyen
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

May 29

Composing Beauty: Mapplethorpe’s Quest for Perfection

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7 p.m. at BAM Fisher

Sign Up - $20

Find out when we launch new classes!