A Friendship: A Literary Conversation Between To Poets: Kelli Russell Agodon & Susan Rich

Susan Rich and I had a correspondence about the importance of friendship during our writing retreat in December and I wanted to share some of it here.

Dear Kelli,
Here is the secret nobody knows: poets need friends. OK. You know it, I know it, and so did Elizabeth Bishop. From Brooklyn over the Brooklyn Bridge this fine morning please come flying. In “Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore,” Elizabeth Bishop celebrates her deep friendship with another woman poet: her mentor and lifelong friend, Marianne Moore.
I know that Bishop and Moore shared poems, went on outings to the zoo together, and when Bishop moved to Brazil in 1951, wrote long letters. Our friendship, now almost a decade old, impacts my writing life in important and magical ways. Do you remember when we first met? We both had poems for the Poetry on the Busses anthology and were reading at the Seattle Art Museum. Your daughter, an infant at the time, let out an enormous cry when you took the podium. “That’s my daughter,” you said without missing a beat.
I liked you right from the start, but it probably took your organizing a reading for Poets for Peace for us to see each other again. I didn’t realize until right now that our friendship was connected to the aftermath of September 11th — and the need for poets to come together and speak out against the witch-hunt mentality of that moment. That you brought so many poets together — anyone in Seattle who wanted to join us, it seemed — at such an uncertain time gave me a strong sense that you were someone I needed to know better. . .

You can read the full conversation here.

This is in the Centrum Writers Conference's new journal, Taller.  Susan & I will both be teaching at Centrum this year along with Dorianne Laux, Carl Phillips, Pam Houston, Cate Marvin, Midge Raymond, Wendy Call, Elizabeth Austen and others.



  1. I have always been fascinated by writers' correspondence with each other. Yours with Kelli shows what a life-sustaining and writer-sustaining bond can be created even via e-mail. A delightful read. Love the names of your respective writing studios.

  2. Kelli, I realize I wrote the above as if I were on Susan's blog; I should have written "Yours with Susan...." For all the sharing, you two are distinct. I just have to make sure I note whose blog I'm leaving the comment.

  3. I think I've shared with you in the past that I've read numerous accounts of poet's correspondence between one another that have been published. Annie Sexton's published letters, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath's Letters Home (though they were largely letters to her mother) Sylvia's Journals, Allan Ginsberg's letters and Robert Lowell’s. It has always been fascinating stuff to me and I have mused on my blog that I wonder what generations will lose as such correspondence between anyone, much less poets seems to be fading.

    But your letters really underscore something else altogether. The value of that connection for creative people, for so much of what they do is in isolation. Talking shop, bouncing stuff off each other, just having someone that reminds you of the positive.

    Thanks both of you for sharing. I suspect you've just made a lot of people jealous. :)


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