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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

LETTERS FROM A FATHER, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography


"Letters from a Father" is a poem written by Mona Van Duyn, first published in 1971. It is a collection of nine letters written by a father to his daughter, detailing his experiences and thoughts about life.


The poem is presented as a series of letters written by a father to his daughter over a period of time. In the letters, the father reflects on his past, his present, and his hopes for the future. He shares his thoughts on a variety of topics, including love, marriage, aging, and death. Through his words, the father offers his daughter advice and wisdom gained from his own experiences.

In the first letter, the father writes about his own childhood and the values he learned from his parents. He advises his daughter to cherish her family and to appreciate the small things in life. In later letters, he reflects on his own experiences with love and relationships, encouraging his daughter to be true to herself and to find happiness in her own way.

The father's letters also touch on his own mortality and his thoughts about death. He acknowledges the inevitability of aging and death, but also expresses a sense of peace and acceptance. Throughout the letters, the father's love for his daughter shines through, as he expresses his hopes and dreams for her future.

Poetic Elements:

  • Form: "Letters from a Father" is written in free verse, with each letter presented as a separate poem.
  • Imagery: The poem contains vivid descriptions of the natural world, such as "the sky that blends / from lavender to pink to apricot / when the sun goes down" (from Letter Three).
  • Symbolism: The father uses symbolism throughout the letters to convey his thoughts and feelings, such as the image of a garden as a metaphor for life (from Letter Seven).
  • Tone: The tone of the poem is contemplative and reflective, as the father shares his thoughts and experiences with his daughter.


 "Letters from a Father" is a poignant and heartfelt poem that captures the love and wisdom of a father for his daughter. Through his letters, the father shares his experiences and insights with his daughter, offering guidance and support as she navigates her own life. The poem is a beautiful tribute to the special bond between a parent and child, and a testament to the enduring power of love and family.

Poem Snippet:

"I'll try to say how I love you, tell

you how it is, and was, and will be, how

this letter, which I wrote for me,

was written, too, for you."


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