Andrew Carroll: Man of Letters

From poetry to war correspondence, this 31-year-old has been spreading words with a missionary’s zeal

Andrew Carroll
Andrew Carroll Wikimedia Commons

It's been two years since Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby) published a column on Andrew Carroll's Legacy Project — an effort to preserve correspondence from our nation's wars — and still the letters keep arriving in his post office box. "Though mostly photocopies," writes author Lisa Newman, "for Carroll these pages still reverberate with their authors' feelings" at that moment in our history, and at that moment in their lives. Pushing against deadline, Carroll is currently editing a collection of never-before-published war letters, which will be out next May.

But more than simply editing a book, Carroll is on a mission. In fact, Carroll is on many missions — and they all have to do with the power of words.

Carroll was a college student when a friend gave him the text of a speech by the poet Joseph Brodsky, which suggested that "an anthology of American poetry should be found in every drawer in every room in every motel in the land, next to the Bible." Though he had never heard of the Nobel Prize-winning poet, Carroll wrote to Brodsky, and together the two hatched a plan to reintroduce poetry into the lives of Americans.

Through the American Poetry and Literacy (APL) Project, which he founded with Brodsky and carried on after the poet's death in 1996, Carroll has given away hundreds of thousands of free books of poetry — in grocery stores, at truck stops, at post offices on tax day and, yes, in hotel rooms. But Carroll's adventures in the world of words hardly stops there. Carroll has also long been on a mission to restore the art of letter writing, and to convey the excitement of learning history through these intimate accounts. Even before he began focusing on war correspondence, Carroll had published a best-selling collection of our nation's letters — from both historic figures and ordinary Americans.

From a touching visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to a poetry giveaway aboard a train, join us as our author keeps pace with this tireless promoter of the written word.

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