Thursday, 17 September 2009

letter writing

i was posting things today and it struck me i couldn't remember the last time i'd written, far less posted, a letter.

i had a conversation recently, somebody or other had died, can't remember if it was a patient or a staff member's relative tho i think it might have been the latter, and what they had left was letters. it seemed rather poignant and got me to thinking that maybe we aren't as emotionally numbed as we like to make out, rather that we can make fine distinctions when we need to.

i have a box of letters up the stairs from when i was in my teens and very early twenties. whether i've written them or received them doesn't matter so much as their being there. i have some from the first person i ever lived with and thinking of them i can see her both then and now much more clearly, can connect with them emotionally far better.

i miss the paraphernalia of letter writing, the choosing of paper, the look of the writing, the colour of the ink, the particularity of the pen. i miss getting letters. true all the communication we have now is convenient but compared to that letter, that special communication, the anticipation of opening it. when i lived in the states, in the days before the internet, my mates would send me letters, missives from home, the best of which came one christmas accompanied by a c90 of random recordings of the radio. i still have it somewhere and when i look at it i can still fell both the closeness and the distance.

more letters i say ( on a blog!). we will lose this custom at our peril!


sarah haliwell said...

this seems to be a common cry amongst my friends these days (although they are all women - it's nice to hear a man say the same thing - although I suppose being a poet makes you, I don't know, somehow more likely to have that softer letter-appreciating side (see I was kind enough to not say "feminine"). I would agree if only I didn't have a weird thing about post offices.

Anonymous said...

i was on the ghastly facebook awhile ago, when the IM thing made a sound at me. it was one of my pals from high school! he made some few pleasantries before saying to me: listen joan i'm on a campaign to get people to start writing letters! actual letters on paper. he said will you do it? will you write me?

of course, i said and i put pen to paper and sent it off straight away. i threw in a few shards of assorted canvases for good measure. and some shitty poems that i'd scribbled onto the back of my desktop calender.

months later i saw him online and i'm like hey did you get that letter i sent? he's like yeah, you are a mad genius thanks for that.

he never wrote back.

i think he was just on a campaign to get stuff in the post!!

rah rah rah letter writing is the best. especially if you have a thing for pens AND paper :-D

denise said...

I miss the letter too.

I loved folding my letters into nifty shapes back when I was in junior high and high school. I also loved mailing letters to my friends when I was away on vacation with my family.

The first boy who ever broke up with me wrote it in a letter. He thought I liked his friend and was not fond of playing second fiddle.

Early in our relationship, very early really, before it was a relationship at all, my husband (just some handsome guy at the time) and I passed notes back and forth, beneath the table, during a group dinner. It's a favorite memory of mine.

Oh, the handwritten letter (& note). Bring it back!

Rachel Fox said...

I send a lot of cards but not many letters any more, it's true. And when I do write a letter it's usually to complain about something and I type it. How rubbish.

Niamh B said...

it's so true - you're so much more likely to hold on to and have letters years later, as opposed to emails etc. I feel lucky that my timing was just such that I have all those lovely letters from college and before, it's a big loss. There's nothing like sending a friend a tea bag.

Sorlil said...

the only letters I get are rejection notes from poetry publishers lol. I'm afraid I don't miss them at all - my joined-up handwriting is pretty scrappy and I like the ease of typing emails - deleting sentences, swopping words about etc

swiss said...

i'm not convinced that letter writing is more feminine sarah - maybe you just mix with the worng blokes! lol tho i'm willing to accept as a gender we possibly do it less so these days. that said i have some fine collections of letters knocking about the house. i very much like the correspondence between elizabeth bishop and robert lowell and i'm currently reading the letters between william maxwell and sylvia townsend warner which are just brilliant.

sadly tho i fear i'd be like the face book guy and really not get it together and reply to letters. i did, and would still i think, think too muc, fret over paper etc to be prompt. that said i think that time taken is what makes them better than emails and the like.

and of course there's nothing better of a rainy day than to go through some old letters.

except of course, rejection letters from publishers. i shouldn't worry about it sorlil. i too am having a bit of a run of these, sufficiently to be bothering me slightly at times, but i console myself with the fact there must be something in the water, some distorting quality that is warping the perceptions of so many! lol

swiss said...

the people who write to me most are amazon. it's true they always accompany their missives with goods that i enjoy but they make me pay rather a lot for the privilege!

apprentice said...

I miss letters too, and the Royal Mail probably does too!

My husband and I still have all the silly letters we wrote when he was away in another city at university. We also had to make do with public phone at set times. Misunderstanding could take days and weeks to sort out. I wonder if we' have every married in today's "joined at the hip" communications age.

Dominic Rivron said...

I too feel nostalgic about this sometimes (why? I was a hopeless letter writer, but I do).

There is a positive side too. I was reading some letters from the early 20th cent when they had several posts a day, and it reminded me of the email culture we have now.

Roxana said...

i disagree that women are more sensitive to this, i know many men who miss it and who have actually got me into writing letters again (ironically, some of them friends i have known through blogging, how funny is that!) - but when a letter doesn't arrive, it is really disturbing, not like some email getting lost. i had this case about a month ago, and it still bothers me :-) damn post!

(what you describe, about the choosing and expectation and the emotion of opening: i could draw the same parallel between shooting film and digital, you know :-) but i am on the verge of succumbing to nostalgia, and it is raining today (yes, it happens here on the Continent as well :-P)

Totalfeckineejit said...

Video killed the radio star, says Buggles, well email has nailed the letter's coffin.I've lost the physical ability to write with a pen, let alone pen a letter.Sad loss.

Sorlil said...

"I've lost the physical ability to write with a pen" - lol, that's so me!

sarah haliwell said...

it's funny, and I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I was thinking this morning about bloggers who are fairly anonymous, no photos etc, and I laughed to think that I had called swiss a guy when I can't remember actually seeing any proof one way or another - not having read here for years, just getting a sense from the muscularity of your writing. One way or the other it's obvious I am the most idiotic person I know. ;-)

swiss said...

i shouldn't worry about it. i used to much more cagey about biographical details, and still am to a certain extent, tho less so as more people on here have met me.

i like the difference between expectation and realisation tho!

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