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Pagoda Writers Circle

Encouragement and Inspiration

Current Year Future Events (2020)

All Meetings will be held at 1840 Lorraine Road, Reading, PA 19604. Networking and conversation at 12:45, workshop begins promptly at 1:00 pm. Just come in.


(more dates and descriptions coming soon)

April 11, 2019

Heather H. Thomas

Heather H. Thomas on Unanswerable Letter Poems

We will explore the now-rare practice of letter writing as a springboard to poetry. This exercise combines the strategy of direct address— Dear You—with prose style in poetic form. We will explore the emotionally charged contexts of loss, absence, rant, plea, apology, and manifesto. Springing from Emily Dickinson's "This is my letter to the World" (Poem 441), the unanswerable letter can be written as a poem addressed to a real or imagined person, or, as in Dickinson's example, to the world itself. Vortex Street contains two of these poems: "Letter My Father Never Sent Me" and "Letter My Grandmother Never Sent Me." Although it is not necessary, you are welcome to bring one or more old letters for interrogation and inspiration.

Heather H. Thomas is the author of Vortex Street and three other full-length poetry collections. Her honors include a Rita Dove Poetry Prize, a Gertrude Stein Award in Innovative American Poetry, a fellowship at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and a term as Berks County Poet Laureate. For Heather, poetry is a practice of interrogation of self and world, tracking a path to discovery and healing. In her new book Vortex Street, life is subject to forces disrupting the flow—from the Schuylkill River to Aleppo, Syria. The poems contend with turbulence, loss, and renewal both personal and political. She was Professor of English and Professional Writing at Kutztown University for 25 years and currently teaches creative writing at Cedar Crest College and in community and private workshops. Heather earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania and her M.A. and Ph.D. at Temple University.