July 20, 2012

Poetry Friday--"Caroline"

Several years ago, I had the honor of judging some of the entries in New Hampshire's "Letters About Literature" competition before they headed into the final, national judging. Letters About Literature is sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, and participating Centers for the Book in the states.

The contest requires that students write a letter to an author about how a particular book has affected them. On its website, the Library of Congress has winning letters back to 2000. One of the letters was written by Amelia Leuer to poet Linda Pastan about her poem, "Caroline." I direct you to the letter with the instructions: bring a tissue.

Here's Pastan's poem:

She wore
her coming death
as gracefully
as if it were a coat
she'd learned to sew.
When it grew cold enough
she'd simply button it
and go.

Such a simple poem had the power to relate to the life a young woman, and to inspire her to create a moving tribute.

Tara at A Teaching Life is this week's Round-Up host.

Photo courtesy Library of Congress.


  1. I'm not sure I want to head off this morning with red, teary eyes so I am going to pass on the letter... :-)
    I really like that she had to 'learn' to accept her coming death gracefully -- interesting metaphor.

  2. Wow. This reminds me of a wonderful Katherine Paterson speech. She was talking about Bridge to Terabithia, how people came to her and said thank you for writing it because my son just lost his best friend, and this will help. And she said, too late too late! The book needed to be read BEFORE the event, that that's what literature had the power to do: expose people to things so they would be better prepared when it happened to them. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. I've re-written my comment and started again more than once! Suffice to say this is such a powerful poem, post, and story behind how these words impacted another human being in an immeasurable way - thanks for sharing.

  4. Linda Pastan is a one of my favorite poets. The letter made this poem even more memorable. Thank you so much for sharing both.

  5. Wow what a powerful project; connecting the stories with the poems, poets and readers. Thanks for telling us about this!

  6. This is a beautiful poem. The letter of response is amazing. We never forget the small miracles that help us to bear grief.they become standing stones on our life journey we can always come back to.

  7. Thanks, I'm pleased that everyone found it to be as moving as I did. On a day like today, it is comforting to know that there are words that can help heal.