Maryanne Hannan

An epistolary poem gets a lot done up front and efficiently. With a self-disclosing protagonist and implied antagonist/s, the possibility of argument, narration, conflict, lyricism, irony, delusion and reversal, it can function as flash drama. In "To a Master of Chancery," I was able to assume a triangle based on Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener and without exposition, create drama. Since this is also a persona poem, the humor and social critique depend on readers' familiarity with the novella, but the epistolary form had no downside. It was a lot of fun to write, once I discovered what Mrs. Bartleby has wanted to say all these years. Your turn, Master of Chancery!




To a Mastery of Chancery

    Your request for information regarding
my erstwhile husband arrives most inconveniently.
I am to be removed from my dwelling by week's end.
I can say nothing other than that Bartleby has changed.
He’s not the man I married, nor has he been,
since his employ began in your stately establishment.
    Gone his former forays into hilarity, so Bartle-ish,
replaced by this mysterious consternation that neither
Nippers nor the curiously named Turkey can dislodge.
    His tinctures and elixirs mount up, to no avail.
They clutter the mantelpiece. He mumbles inscrutably
whenever I speak. At wit's end, last fortnight I determined
to kindle old flames of Bartlebilia. Oysters in the anteroom,
feathers at the ready, sachets hidden in the coverlet, myself
diaphanously adorned. This time I heard him:
I would prefer not to. So saying, he disappeared.
    Beyond that, I know nothing, other than the constant
howling of wolves at my abandoned door. The Tombs await me.
Ah, Bartleby! If anyone were to know the why of this case,  
I submit, sir, with all due respect, that person would be yourself.

        I remain,
        (Mrs) Agatha Perdue Bartleby



Maryanne Hannan has published poetry in a variety of print and online journals including 111O, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Gargoyle, Magma, Pebble Lake Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Poet Lore, Umbrella and upstreet. Her website is