The Red Letter Poems Gallery

Arlington Poet Laureate Steve Ratiner

“In Ancient Rome, feast days were indicated on the calendar by red letters. To my mind, all poetry and art – and, in truth, even the Corona crisis itself – serves as a reminder that every day we wake together beneath the sun is a red-letter day.” – Steven Ratiner

About the Project

Steven Ratiner was appointed as Arlington’s third Poet Laureate. In early 2020, he came up with a project that would share the delight of poetry by sending out poems by Arlington’s poetic voices in bright red envelopes sent in mass mailings to random households. When Covid-19 hit and began devastating all our town’s planned projects, he reimagined the Red Letter Poems as a virtual project. At the start of National Poetry Month in April 2020, Steven launched the Red Letter Poems Project, releasing a series of weekly poems, shared virtually here on Arts Arlington, on the Robbins Library site, and through local media such as As the project started to gain momentum locally, it received more and more acclaim and attention, and Steven invited more and more regional literary artists to join in, sharing their poems with a wide readership of poetry lovers.

One difficult, complicated year later, having traversed a difficult journey through many challenging obstacles — a political maelstrom, a pandemic that shuttered business and stifled gathering in fellowship, growing social unrest and turmoil surrounding racial justice — Steven kept up the pace and organized a project that touched our lives and brought beauty to our inboxes every week. 

The Red Letter Poems continue on, having gained quite an appreciative following. We strongly encourage fans to continue to engage directly and personally, subscribing to receive Red Letter Poems in your inbox! Just send an email to with the subject line: “mailing list.’

On this page you’ll find an index of poems/authors and files of all the poems from the project’s inception in April 2020, up to the end of April 2021 in a “gallery” below. To view, just click on each poem to view the full size image. You can return to the original Red Letter Poems page here, to view Steven’s commentary about each poem. 

We hope you’ve had the chance to appreciate a momentary respite from these challenging times by tuning in to the many poetic voices of the Red Letter Poems Project.

Red Letter Poems was created in partnership with many of our town’s cultural resources: the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture, the Arlington Center for the Arts, the Robbins Library, the Arlington International Film Festival, and Arlington Community Education.


1.“Pinckney Street” by Fred Marchant

2. “Super Moon” by Steven Ratiner

3. “Chanson on the Red Line” by Susan Donnelly

4. “Boneshaker” by Teresa Cader

5. “Lingua Franca” Thomas DeFreitas

6. “Clap Your Hands and Dance” by Jean Flanagan

7. “Four Haiku” by Brad Bennett

8. “That Blue” by Cathie Desjardins

9. “Garden of Thought” by Andy Oram

10. “Maybe monsters, but” by Ellen Steinbaum

11. “Staying In” by Miriam Levine

12. “Dvorak and My Grandfather” by Polly Brown

13. “Sunshine” by Camille Maxwell

14. “Waking” by Steven Ratiner

15. “Thunder Moon” by Gayle Roby

16. “Congo Square,” by Bonnie Bishop

17. “Birds Before Dawn” by John Pijewski

18. “The world speaks to me when I have one month of chemo left” by Susan Lloyd McGarry

19. “Luna Moths” by Jo Pitkin

20. “First Chairs” by Con Squires

21. “Pulchritude” by Lilia Cuervo

22. “Lammas [August 1]” by Deborah Melone

23. “Aubade with Concussion” by Martin Espada

24. “Four Sijo” by David McCann

25. “Unlatch” by Dorian Brooks

26. “Walleye” by Michael T. Steffen

27. “Reviving the Orchard” by Jessie Brown

28. “Thank you” by Alice Kociemba

29. “The Season of Our Sundering” by Teresa Cader

30. “Friendly Song / Cancão Amiga” by Carlos Drummond de Andrade (Translated by Lloyd Schwartz)

31.  “Morning Prayer” by Adnan Adam Onart

32. “Anthem Call” by Susan Donnelly

33. “A Cairn by the Cabin” by Fred Marchant

34. “Four Haiku” by Brad Bennett

35. “Peggy on the Hill” by Polly Brown

36. “we have no words it is all we want to talk about” by Ellen Steinbaum

37. “Song” by Lloyd Schwartz

38. “A Pair of Limmer Boots” by Joyce Peseroff

39. “Double Visitation: by Jeffrey Harrison

40. “Sense/Nonsense” by Deborah Melone

41. “from Three Versions of Mandelstam” by Steven Cramer

42. “Ellis” by Bonnie Bishop

43. “Toward” by Moira Linehan

44. “Juncos at the ER” by Lee Varon 

45. “Naturalization” by Jenny Xie

46. “Phasmids” by Sarah Bennett

47. “On the Passing of Heaven Sutton” by Afaa Michael Weaver

48. “Il Cavallino, Little Horse” by Christopher Jane Corkery

49. “Blizzard” by Denise Provost

50. “39” by Martha Collins

51. “The Block Before Columbus” by Enzo Silon Surin

52. “Gratitude” by Steven Ratiner

53. “Baseball” by Gail Mazur

54. “Prayer” by Charles Coe

55.  “Like St. Francis” by Julia Lisella