The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Correspondence” is a short, three-stanza poem without rhyme or meter, but with a loose 4-4-5-4 beat pattern in each stanza. “Correspondences” is a traditional title or subject of a poem. The French Symbolist poet Charles Baudelaire, for example, published a poem in Les Fleurs du mal (1857; Flowers of Evil, 1909) entitled “Correspondences,” and the modern American poet Robert Duncan also used the title “Correspondences.” It is a word with two meanings. Poems are often addressed to someone and are therefore a kind of letter, a form of correspondence with that person. At the same time, poems often bring out previously unseen associations, or correspondences, by techniques such as imagery, simile, and metaphor. Since Henri Coulette evokes both traditions by giving his poem this title, the poem must be examined for evidence of both.

The poem’s relation to correspondence by exchange of letters is announced in the first line. There is no first-person pronoun, only an unidentified speaker describing a “letter” that “lies” on top of something. It has been where it is “all day,” and sunlight has passed across it as hours have gone by. In this first stanza, while the description of the letter is physical, the speaker describing it is clearly concerned with its contents. The letter is examined by both the speaker and the bright sunlight, which was even “changing the hues of the ink,” but it is not read by either....

(The entire section is 505 words.)