by Louise Robertson


Most poems that happen in the second person — you know the poems directed at “you” — o you deceitful inarticulate cuss, they begin and then proceed through a litany of complaints and/or praises — most poems that happen in the second person are half-brothers and -sisters to the letter poem.

You write this kind of poem by starting out with the conventional opening to a letter: Dear _____. Or you simply say To ____.

And the recipient of that letter is wholly up to you. A lot of people address former or future selves, not-yet conceived children, and relatives who have passed away. It is a really good way to get started writing when you’re at a loss, when you want to tell your side of the story to a world which hasn’t yet listened to your side of the story.

Like a persona of the persona poem, the choice of featured person is critical. But it can be way less critical that the audience know exactly who it is and what their back-story is. It’s a great form for not having to pay attention to the other guy’s side of the story. And that is not the negative you might think it is. We’re talking about poetry here, truth, not fact.

You can address the “recipient” to talk about something else entirely, such as in Mike McGee’s “Letter to Neil Armstrong”.

Anyway, here’s a great example of the form by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, “Lit; or To The Scientist I Am Not Speaking To Anymore“.

BTW: I am linking to the Indiefeed performance poetry podcast here and you should bookmark it. It is a stunning collection of poetry presented entirely in audio format and updated three times a week.


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