An Ode to the Letter
by Mandy Baker
“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.”
– Phyllis Theroux
Letter writing — it’s a phrase that feels like a thing of the past, like VHS, or cassette tape, or rotary phone. There are now entire generations who don’t know what it feels like to receive a real letter in the post, let alone write one. We live in a world of convenience. We live in a world where we can pick up a phone, or log onto a computer, and communicate with one another in an instant. Gone are the days when you had to wait a few days or a week for someone to receive your letter and wait another week or so for a response from them.
I remember being a kid and heading off to summer camp with my new pack of stationery and a list of addresses. I couldn’t wait to send letters to friends and family telling them about everything I was doing there — swimming, archery, and games to name a few. More than that, every day I looked forward to mail call, hoping my name would be read out, meaning I had a letter from a loved one. On those special days when I did receive a letter, or better yet, more than one letter, in my excitement, I sloppily tore open the envelope, and read the words scrawled across the page.
There is a huge part of me that misses writing letters like I did when I was younger. I miss checking the post and finding that someone had taken the time to write to me. Just about a year ago, I left my home country and moved to the UK. I left behind my family and everything I’ve ever known. There are times when I think about my family back in the States, and I do think it might be nice to put pen to paper, put a stamp on the envelope and blow a kiss as I drop it in the postbox. The reality is, I know it will take weeks for it to get to them. It is so much easier to simply send a text or an email, or even make a Facebook post to let them know how I’m doing.
In a world of instant gratification (and communication), I often long for the feel of good quality paper under my pen. I think about what it would be to press a stamp to the corner of an envelope. I wonder what it might be like to write a letter again. I find myself thinking back to childhood, and then pen pals of days gone by. I wonder if they too ever look back on those days and think fondly of the letters we wrote each other.
Maybe the time has come to slow life down a bit. Maybe now is a good time to create an ode to the letter and bring back this lost art form. Maybe I should walk into a Ryman or a W.H. Smiths, carefully select some high-quality stationery, and put my fancy pen to paper once more. Maybe that’s what my life is missing … a pen pal. Who knows, maybe I’ll get one, and maybe I’ll build my own ode to letter writing.
Maybe one day …
The Letters Page team are back in the office, and ready to read your real letters again. We publish stories, essays, poems, memoir, reportage, criticism, recipes, travelogue, and any hybrid forms, so long as they come to us in the form of a letter. We are looking for writers of all nationalities and ages, both established and emerging.
Your letter must be sent in the post, to :
The Letters Page, School of English, University of Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK.
See our submissions page for more information.
To stay up to date with The Letters Page newsletter publication, subscribe here.