March 1, 2023

Finding Father's Love Letters Again

In the days before email

I was recently notified that a poem of mine titled "My Father's Love Letters" would be in the forthcoming issue of the Paterson Literary Review. It's not a new poem. I wrote it originally in 2000 from a very early prompt on the Poets Online website

As I go back and look at some of the first pages in our archive of 300+ prompts, I find that those early ones often surprise me.

Here was that prompt:

Imagine you have discovered a packet of your father's love letters. It might be easier to imagine love letters written by your mother, but, no - these are your father's love letters. How would they sound? Were they to your mother or someone else? Were they ever mailed?

Our model poem for this prompt was Yusef Komunyakaa's poem "My Father's Love Letters." The links on the old page needed to be fixed. That is probably true for other links on the old archived issues. I did find his poem on another website and also an audio recording by Yusef reading that poem.

The older archive pages were in a simpler format and often need some maintenance which is an ongoing process for the site. In this case, there were only five poems posted and we didn't get as many submissions in the beginning as we do now. The prompts were much shorter at the beginning and there was no blog where we extended the prompt.

POETS ONLINE started in 1998 as an e-mail exchange with four poets who met at a weeklong poetry writing workshop. Taking turns and suggesting a prompt idea, we took a week and then e-mailed our poems to each other. As more poets joined the group, it became an awkward mailing process, and POETS ONLINE, the website was created. By early 1999, a mailing list was created to remind people to check the latest prompt & poems and that has grown to hundreds of subscribers.

It wasn't until 2003 that I bought the domain The blog appeared in October 2005 and by then we already had seven years of prompts and poems. The blog now had almost 800 posts and goes well beyond just the prompts, and has had almost 705,000 visits.

I know from emails that a number of teachers use the archive of pat prompts as a resource for students to get ideas and models for their writing (poetry and otherwise). That pleases me. Of course, anyone can use the older prompts for inspiration whether for not they ever submit to the site to be published in the next issue.

Visit our website at

No comments:

Post a Comment

* * All comments must be approved by the site administrator before appearing in order to prevent spam.