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A Month of Letters 

I'm writing letters.

To an old friend who understands the missing pieces.

To a young friend I write: I don't have answers but here, consider this, and this, and maybe this.

To a niece.

To a poet.

To a student.

To a mother-in-law.

To myself.

Letters let us wonder and search, and sometimes declare.

You like letters, too? Please join me in A Month of Letters, a challenge presented by novelist (and letter writer) Mary Robinette Kowal.


Elegy for the Personal Letter 

I miss the rumpled corners of correspondence,

the ink blots and crossouts that show

someone lives on the other end, a person

whose hands make errors, leave traces.

I miss fine stationary, its raised elegant

lettering prominent on creamy shades of ivory

or pearl grey. I even miss hasty notes

dashed off on notebook paper, edges

ragged as their scribbled messages—

can't much write nowthinking of you.

When letters come now, they are formatted

by some distant computer, addressed

to Occupant or To the family living at

meager greetings at best,

salutations made by committee.

Among the glossy catalogs

and one time only offers

the bills and invoices,

letters arrive so rarely now that I drop

all other mail to the floor when

an envelope arrives and the handwriting

is actual handwriting, the return address

somewhere I can locate on any map.

So seldom is it that letters come

That I stop everything else

to identify the scrawl that has come this far—

the twist and the whirl of the letters,

the loops of the numerals. I open

those envelopes first, forgetting

the claim of any other mail,

hoping for news I could not read

in any other way but this.


— Allison Joseph



Reader Comments (8)

Love this idea!

February 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKelli Russell Agodon

Me too, Kelli. It really appeals to the fevered penpal within me.

February 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDrew

I know myself too well to commit to every day mail communion.

But I will make a conscious effort to mail some things out here and there.
Postcards, especially. They might not be as substantial as a real letter, but there's nothing more fun than that simple combination of image and glimpse of text.

It's on.

February 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShawnte

Shawnte -
I like your spirit! And postcard writing is an excellent exercise in writing tight and with meaning. Have fun, write on.

February 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDrew

For the past three years I've sent a letter or postcard each week. Sometimes more. I recommend the once-a-week goal if you want to try to stay with this practice longer than a month. And If you have very young children in your life, write to them. Yours may be the only real letters they receive, now or later.

February 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarjorie Power

Marjorie -
I've been the (thankful) recipient of your notes. It's a great feeling to get handwritten mail, isn't it? I agree with you that once a day seems a bit much for sustained pleasure but I like the spirit of the Month-of-Letters, in that it encourages meaningful correspondence.

Write on.

February 13, 2012 | Registered CommenterDrew

Yes, re the spirit of Month-of-Letters.... Whatever encourages meaningful correspondence gets my vote! BTW: the new Chinese New Year stamps are gorgeous - some of the most beautiful stamps I've ever seen. Maybe you've already seen them...?

February 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarjorie Power

Oh, I love a new stamp. Haven't seen the New Year ones yet.

Okay, we really are letter geeks, aren't we? :)

February 14, 2012 | Registered CommenterDrew

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