Envelope Art


Emily Dickinson's poem "Surprise is like  a  thrilling-pungent-"
Emily Dickinson’s poem “Surprise is like a thrilling-pungent-” on the back of an envelope

Jon gave me a beautiful book called Emily Dickinson The Gorgeous Nothings.  It’s filled with photos of the envelopes that Dickinson wrote many of her poems on.  And it is gorgeous.  Every page an envelope shape, some simple rectangles, some the more complex shapes made when the envelope is spread open.  Each with an address on one side and a poem on the other side. Each a small fragile treasure, like an abstract painting about line, edge, shades of white, softness and subtly.  The words, often indecipherable, add to the mystery. I imagine to Dickinson it was just something to write on, but it’s become so much more.

I was inspired by these envelope poems this afternoon when Jon and I went for a ride so he could catch the sun on the barns and cornfields on Rt 313.  I left my small travel sketch pad home, so I scoured the car and found an old, opened piece of mail and a pen in the glove compartment.  Then I started to draw.

My envelope drawing
My envelope drawing, closed
My envelope drawing opened up
My envelope drawing opened up


17 thoughts on “Envelope Art

  1. Maria, this is wonderful! I truly admire people who can draw, I am hopeless with that. I’m glad that I’m pretty good at photography or I’d never capture any of what I see. Thanks for sharing this! I love the hen with the teacup!

  2. Funny to see this posting today. Roger spent yesterday afternoon reading a poetry journal and there were fragments of Dickinson’s “envelope poetry” in the journal. He was so intrigued by it that he mentioned it to me. He often winds up sketching ideas or writing down newly discovered words (or line fragments) on envelopes. He’s done it for years, even though he always carries an unlined small ntoebook/pen in his pcoket!

  3. I am fairly new to poetry – a new passion of mine I share with my 21 year old son. This is a treasure of a book – such a lovely gift. I have a daughter who is an art major in college – I am at times intimidated to draw now – am trying to work my courage back up. Sketching, always observing is key and I realize I can keep a journal private if I am insecure – I’m sure it will eventually be something I would like to share – much like my poetry…

    1. It’s true Margaret, poetry and drawing are both about observing. I only started liking my drawings a few years ago. I remember looking at a tiny sketch I did and thinking it was good, it looked like something I would do. I guess it was part of my voice emerging. Would love to see your sketches some day.

  4. Emily Dickinson is one of my favorite Poets! That is a cool gift..and I love your doodles..thanks for sharing them!

  5. Maria I have long admired your work and it’s a wonderful treat to see your drawings – it’s so interesting that your envelope holds numerous little sketches (and that some are right side up and others upside down!)

    I had to laugh a bit as I’m forever bringing home notepads and notebooks but they sit unused. I always write my notes and doodles on envelopes, napkins, backs of biz cards, greeting cards, cereal boxes or whatever’s at hand, lol

    Thank you for sharing and I hope you’ll share your ‘envo-sketches’ again…


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