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A Little Bit About Puzzle Pieces: New Poetry by Post

Not too long ago, I took two semesters of poetry workshops under Dr. Robert A. Fink. Each week, every student in the class was given a stack of poems the other students had written that week. We would take them home and read them on our own time: in the great sunny field outside the science building; over afternoon tea in the living room; with a foggy latte at the local coffeeshop downtown. We would wrestle with each piece, circling questions and underlining thoughts that found a home in us. And each week, we came together to share our ideas and questions about one another’s work. These gatherings were startlingly intimate, because each person was speaking from the core of themselves, and each person was being heard. For poetry is a way of sorting and speaking the truth about life as we live it, belief as we hold it, and what comes of it all. When the academic year came to an end, the conclusion of these workshops left a great void in most of us. When we saw each other about town on occasion, we nearly always commented on that.

In recent months, I’ve been thinking a lot about those evenings we spent in a circle of chairs on the top floor of frumpy old Abilene Hall. I miss the generosity of that gathering and the way we all grew in understanding that year because of the wealth of time we dedicated to probing the puzzles of one another’s writing and treasuring the gems of genuine self-disclosure hidden there. I miss that space where everyone’s stories were taken seriously and lovingly examined from all angles and challenged and chewed on and cheered on. I miss that weekly gift of ourselves.

Since the conclusion of the workshop days, I’ve continued to write and occasionally publish poetry, just as I’ve been doing since I was about 18. Poetry has long been the highest and fondest art form for me and the one I turn to to give words to the things that lie far beyond our borders, hidden in the no man’s land of music and mystery. But something is missing now. 

I find I’ve been a bit spoiled by the luxury of crafting and contemplating poetry in community. And I find I can’t go back. I can’t go back to wrestling for six or seven hours to make a Big Thought sing from the page and then tuck it away until it appears in a little magazine that isn’t read by anyone I know. I find myself nurturing a mushrooming desire to re-establish the value of thoughtful and sophisticated poetry as a means of starting conversations around topics of Great Importance. I find myself longing to engage people with poetry using a medium that is more tangible and contemplative than our ever-present screens—and less prone to the pull of distractions. It is all these longings that have prompted me to kick off an odd and unconventional but deliciously old-fashioned new project called Puzzle Pieces: New Poetry by Post.

It’s just what it sounds like: every month, I’m writing a completely new poem and printing limited, signed copies of it on handmade cotton rag paper and mailing them out in the post, accompanied by a little writer’s note. Recipients are encouraged to send responses straight to me by post if they want to and are also encouraged to send along one of their own poems for a focused reading and a reply from me. Because writing and exploring meaning and figuring out the world and living can be lonely things if there aren’t people alongside us. And I want to bring back the glorious old custom of paying full attention to people with the slow sincerity of snail mail. Reading poems online can be a source of great enjoyment and interest. Reading them in a printed literary magazine is, I think, even better. But receiving them in your mailbox straight from the writer is certainly best of all. I want to extend that to you.

The purpose of Puzzle Pieces is to connect people with the meaningful craft of poetry and to offset the interpersonal isolation of our time, so the majority of subscription costs really do go straight back into postage, packaging, and the handmade paper I use to print the poems. The subscription includes free global shipping as well, and anything left over helps to buy me the hours I put into creating these pieces each month. 

If you’re intrigued by this new project, you can sign up or find out more here. If for any reason you need to use PayPal instead of a credit or debit card, you can also sign up for Puzzle Pieces via Etsy instead. The November poem will only be shipping until the end of the month, so be sure to sign up by November 30th if you don’t want to miss this very first installment.


  • Laurie, I just wanted to say again how grateful I was for your beautiful letter and poem and the kind words tucked into the envelope. I’m delighted that Puzzle Pieces brought us together across all the miles and years. Thank you so very much for taking the time to send something concrete and personal.

    Bryana Joy
  • I just mailed out a response to your beautifully written February poem, and the way my post office stamped and canceled the envelope seemed perfect. I hope my reply will be as much fun for you as getting your poem in the mail was for me. I keep reading and rereading “Belen Koy” because there’s so much there and because it’s wonderfully written and a joy to read and read again.

    Laurie Flanigan

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