RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
I'm joined now by MORNING EDITION's poet in residence, Kwame Alexander. Hey, Kwame.
KWAME ALEXANDER, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel. Rachel Martin, I got a question for you.
ALEXANDER: What did the envelope say to the stamp?
MARTIN: (Laughter) I do not know. What?
ALEXANDER: Stick with me. Oh, the places we will go (laughter).
MARTIN: Oh, perfection.
ALEXANDER: Well, I do aim to please. You know, that clever little joke holds some truth, though. We're living in a download era. And certainly, texting and social media keep us connected, but I would posit that good old-fashioned letter writing shows us how much we cherish the recipient, and research proves that writing letters makes us happier.
MARTIN: Totally. I mean, liking my best friend's IG post is not as meaningful as tucking a photo into an envelope beside a heartfelt letter on her birthday or texting my kid ILY definitely is not the same thing as writing out I love you.
ALEXANDER: The letters matter, Rachel. Spell them out. Spell them out.
MARTIN: Letters are personal and intimate. There's something special about learning someone's handwriting, too, right? Learning if they write in cursive, hearing the softness in their punctuation.
ALEXANDER: Wait, wait. Let me find out - you hear letters, Rachel Martin.
MARTIN: Writing is therapeutic. You're giving yourself all this space to get down what you want, what you have to say. And the waiting for the reply is the fun part.
ALEXANDER: Exactly. The author Amos Russell Wells said it best - (reading) to write a good letter, take a handful of grit, a plenty of time and a little of wit, take patience to set it, and stir it all up.
MARTIN: So, listeners, we want you to stir it all up and find the time to write a letter to someone - a neighbor, a boss, a child, a lost lover maybe, a park ranger, anyone - about something meaningful and significant to you.
ALEXANDER: Yes. We are going to do an epistolary poem, from the Latin epistola, for letter. So we are quite literally going to write poems that read as letters. They can tell a story. They can ask something. They can report. They can inform. They can just be.
MARTIN: OK, so we're going to give you an example. Here's an excerpt of an epistolary poem by the poet Afaa Michael Weaver. It's called "Midnight Air In Louisville."
(Reading) Dear Breonna, how many times, I ask. How many times have I chased the thought of writing to you, of catching the poem where it cannot leave, of knocking open the door to a grief we all hold, our hearts full of questions. We leave our houses to work, to look for what we need to live or what we need to make the pain go away.
ALEXANDER: Wow. And here's an excerpt from "Dear David" by the poet Matthew Burgess.
(Reading) This morning I looked for your book online and almost bought it from the evil giant but bulked. Instead, I wrote a poem in bed about a faux leopard jacket while drinking coffee from a Bette Midler mug.
And then the poem goes on to talk about his morning and how he finally discovers the book.
MARTIN: OK, so let's write to each other, friends. Let's communicate this way. Submit your works to npr.org/letterpoem, and then Kwame will do what he does. He'll take all those submissions and turn them into one beautiful community poem. Kwame Alexander is a regular contributor to MORNING EDITION and the host of the reality show "America's Next Great Author."
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