Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Letters to the Dead

A couple of weeks ago I issued the last 2016 edition of my occasional author email newsletter. If you missed it, you can view it here and subscribe here.

In the letter I offered a giveaway for my new chapbook DEAR SLAVE, which contains poems that are letters to former slaves. I wrote the letters after I read their words in slave narratives collected by Ruby Pickens Tartt.

To enter the giveaway, I asked people to reply with the name of a deceased loved one they'd like to write a letter to, and (optional) what they would say in the letter.

Response continues to be overwhelming! I've gotten so many messages from folks sharing their loved ones  -- parents and sisters and children and friends -- and I'm so very honored to read the things they would like to say to them.

A couple of things stand out to me about the experience. First, we NEED to say the names of the ones we love who are no longer with us. Saying their names, sharing them with others, is important. Second, we are all the same. Grief unites us. All the feelings and regrets and love -- no matter how different we are, or what the relationship, or what the circumstances of the death -- we share those emotions.

Below please find images of a few of the former slaves to whom I addressed poems in DEAR SLAVE. I wish I could have talked with them in real life. May we never forget their names.

Ank Bishop

Emma Crockett

Amy Chapman
All photos courtesy of the Library of Congress.


  1. Love the pic of Emma Crockett. Wish I could sit down for a visit with her. "Grief unites us." That statement feels so meaningful given the time I've spent recently with a friend and her family who just lost their husband/father/ brother.

  2. This sounds like a great project. And so agree about the importance of names.


Your thoughts?