'Love, Me' is a community poem crowdsourced from hundreds of letters
Updated July 28, 2022 at 9:05 AM ET
There are few forms of communication that are as powerful as a handwritten letter.
So we recently asked listeners to send us poems in letter — or epistolary — form, addressed to anyone of their choosing.
Many chose to write to loved ones, both living and dead. Some wrote to lawmakers. Others wrote in existential fashion, including to the world.
Their letters talked of long and dear friendships, of love and loss and of difficult relationships.
We received more than 600 submissions, and NPR's Poet-in-Residence Kwame Alexander turned some of them into this community, crowd-sourced poem.
"This was the most challenging poem to date, hands down," Alexander tells Morning Edition. "Over 600 submissions, and everyone was writing to a different person ... a few people even wrote to us!"
Read Alexander's poem, titled Love, Me.
Seeing you again today has got me thinking. We are at that stage in life where it's death — funerals, wakes, memorial services — that draws us together.
Should we wait for someone else to die to get together again? For some unknown reason the thought of you taking singing lessons in Bishkek crossed my mind this morning. I hope you are still singing, opening windows and laughing at our absurdities.
Every morning I open up to the back deck and look at the colorful array of life.
I dare you to wake up early before the sunrise, to step out of your home barefoot and naked. I dare you to walk through the grass and drift toward the trees and when you get there to raise your head high and plant your feet deep to look at the sky and marvel at its changing color
Mortality is looming large. I'm almost 80. You will be soon, a few weeks before me. Will we party? Maybe? Does this worry you? Getting older?
Today, I noticed a tiny grasshopper leap into the unknown, and suddenly my escape turned into a race to be home. To tell you about it. To hold your tiny, chubby hand and show you this tiny leaping soul, and revel in your delight. Your wonder.
But, you are gone, and everything I see, touch, smell, hear takes me back to the you I still love, the you that still lives in all I see.
When I boil my water to make a cup or two, I remember the coffee cup by the bathroom sink with lipstick on the rim and still half to drink.
I have your smile, too. I also have the lines around my face that have come from smiling. Like you, I earned them.
If I could choose heaven for you, I think you'd have a small farm by the side of the sea. I'd put the Blue Ridge Mountains by the Assateague Shore, and move green Irish islands a short walk from your door. There'd be gardens and rivers, an ocean and beach, and a busy French market within easy reach.
Dear Old Friend,
I read your name in today's newspaper.
Isn't it silly that eulogies are said after death? Why not before?
I miss you. I miss our youth.
Now our grandkids are that age, and I wake each morning hunting memory.
Dear treasured old friend, it's pushing midnight. Why am I writing a letter to you that I have no way to send, any more than you to receive?
I look for you every day. Sometimes I find you. I saw you in the hooded oriole staring at me from the plum tree, I felt you as my kitten purred and curled into my neck. My neighbor brought me beautiful roses today and I saw your face light up. You loved roses.
Dear Phyllis, I know you don't remember me. You don't remember much of anything: Your life, your family, yourself. My letters probably don't mean anything to you. But I remember you for both of us.
Dear Yoga Teacher, thank you for being ordinary. Thank you for having the same thickness around the middle.
Dear Nathan, my sweet son, please go to sleep. Mommy has to keep working and get up soon, before the moon switches with the sun.
Dear Grandma, we haven't spoken for a while now, and I suppose that's my fault. I haven't been in the best of moods, and I'll assume you know why. As you know I've always kept our letters, wedged underneath my box spring. They've slept soundly for as long as I can remember, so quiet and peaceful.
Dear Me, I know you are suffering.
Dear Darkness, I am tired. Of you.
Dear Lawmakers, you're hammering away at my daughter's rights.
You won't be able to read this for another few years, and even then, it may not make much sense, But here is the message my dear: There is beauty in the worst of us, trees are your friends. But not geese – they will poop everywhere, and try to nest in your flower pots. Ignore my tangential goose warnings. Your destiny is determined by the life cards you choose to play. Always believe Gandalf.
If you should happen upon these words, know I have lived in many daydream moments with thoughts of you.
My solitude allows the time to hold reflect and care, arrange a memory in rhyme, to hold it close and fair.
This community poem was creating using submissions by:
Tracy Dumka, British Columbia
Lindsay Lunari, San Francisco, CA
Jocelyn Boor, Grafton, WI
Maureen Prendergast, New Bern, NC
Jane VanderVelde, Pasadena, CA
Tom Sterling, Fairfax, VA
Judith Hodges, Yardley, PA
Luanne Novak, Houston, TX
Deborah Lunn, Nashville, TN
Laine Derr, Sedona, AZ
Charlie Ewers, Gales Ferry, CT
Robin Morey, Alexandria, VA
Susan Mcclellan, Pittsburgh, PA
Susan Vincent Molinaro, Katonah, NY
Grace Jasmine, Phoenix, AZ
Tom Trevino, San Antonio, TX
Anne Mallon, Salt Lake City, UT
Carol J Wechsler Blatter, Tucson, AZ
Mary Honeyman-Speichinger, Emerson, IA
Kathryn Thompson, Penrose, NC
Joshua Silavent, Atlanta, GA
Sandy Lee Carlson, Woodbury, CT
Dee Curwen, Corvallis, OR
Leah Hampshire, Troy, OH
Deborah Guenther-Beachboard, Chehalis, WA
Bridget-Seley Galway, Somerville, MA
Shalane Clayton, Albuquerque, NM
C. E. Dawson, Amherst, MA
Grace Rowe, Plymouth, MI
Brenna Bridge, Grandview, MO
Susan Reeves, Santa Barbara, CA
James Richeson, Shoreham, NY
Ariel Reinish, Rochester, NY
Mary Kollar, Seattle, WA
Kwame Alexander's assistant Cassidy Ann Dyce helped produce this story. Jeevika Verma and Reena Advani produced and edited the audio story. Reena Advani and Rachel Treisman adapted it for the web.
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