By Kristin Heng Schanke
Edited by Jon McGregor
I have a confession to make. I’ve never actually written a real letter. This is perhaps gauche, considering I’m working on a literary journal whose sole focus it is to publish letters. But I’m a gen Z and we communicate with everything but pen and paper, so hopefully you’ll forgive me. Through my work with The Letters Page though, I’ve had the absolute delight of reading some of the best (totally unbiased opinion here) letters that are out there. So, in an attempt to pop my letter-writing cherry, here is a letter entirely composed of some of my favourite lines of yours; it is an homage to letters past, to letter-writing, and to intangible connections.
Perhaps our eyes had become jaded landside and maybe all this will lose its novelty one day. I loved it as an ode to taste and temperaments, to the thingness of things. From where you are now, can you see that what you did appears small only because the possibilities have grown so much bigger?
We’re not unique in our urge to communicate. Us are the letter writers who, despite the exigencies of dust to dust, still speak in this paper trail left behind. It’s about the written word. And the spoken. And it’s about what gets lost: how every conversation means translating between one inner world and another, different one. But for that brief moment, our understanding of our relation to the greater world was correct.
Since putting down your paper, you have had eyes only for the sky. You were a wonderful sight then, I’m sure you still are now.
Sometimes loving you has been like being in a foreign country where people speak in archaic words that sound like those from my own language but mean something different. I begged the sun to stop shining, so that it might never melt us, and we could stay like that forever. So this is me, reaching – my arms and this pen and you in your field over there: all those stars, and all that space between them.
I know this too shall pass, but who knew everything is made of forever?
You will learn to hear, if you listen for it, the chime of that magic moment of departure resounding softly in your secret ear. Trying to hold on to time may be like collecting water in a net, but it’s astonishing how handwritten marks on paper can sometimes close the mesh.
Another thought, we’re all plagiarists – of each other, of the world, of art.
Perhaps this assortment of quotes, thoughts, and anecdotes amounts to something worthwhile.
Letters quoted, in order of appearance:
- JL Bogenschneider, ‘The Missing of You Causes Us to Lose Our Breath’, The Letters Page Vol. 5.
- Liam Harrison, ‘Simmering in the Elastic Gloom’, The Letters Page Vol. 4, p.22.
- Claudia Reed, ‘The Very Edge of Heaven’, The Letters Page Vol. 1, p.67.
- Ken Sears, ‘I Learn a Few Things and Everyone’s Happy’, The Letters Page Vol. 1, p.83.
- Xu Xi, ‘Simple Mail’, The Letters Page Vol. 5.
- Sarah Whiteside, ‘I’m a Good Listener, Marko Hautala’, The Letters Page Vol. 4, p. 60.
- George Saunders, ‘A Disturbance in the Brain Thousands of Miles Away’, The Letters Page Vol. 1, p. 16.
- Duncan Wallace, ‘Our Best Wishes to You in the Months Ahead’, The Letters Page Vol. 5.
- Rain Chudori, ‘Something Tender Just Occurred’, The Letters Page Vol. 4, p.32.
- Nancy Campbell, ‘Bless, Bless’, The Letters Page Vol. 5.
- Richard Berry, ‘Sometimes I Regret’, The Letters Page Vol. 4, p. 42.
- Sarah Whiteside, ‘I’m a Good Listener, Marko Hautala’, The Letters Page Vol. 4, p. 62
- Annie Q. Syed, ‘What is it About a Letter that Grounds Us?’, The Letters Page Vol. 5.
- Kate Feld, ‘You Simply Go’, The Letters Page Vol. 3, p.75.
- Chris Arthur, ‘A Flotilla of Cards’, The Letters Page Vol. 3, p.34
- Andrew McMillan, ‘We’re All Plagiarists of Each Other’, The Letters Page Vol. 2, p. 36.
- Darren Chetty, ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’, The Letters Page Vol. 2, p. 46
If you would like to read more from The Letters Page, print versions of Volume 1 and Volume 2 are available for purchase here. The Letters Page Volume 3 and Volume 4 are currently available at the Hallward Library with The University of Nottingham. The Letters Page Volume 5 can be found in our archives.
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.
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