The Vindolanda tablets are a set of writing tablets, dating from the late 1st to early 2nd centuries AD and unearthed in northern England in the 1970s. They form a remarkable cache of correspondence received by the garrison of the Roman fort of Vindolanda, close to what would become Hadrian’s Wall. They are made of wood shavings, written on with pen and ink. (It is worth reminding ourselves that, whilst the pen and paper of today are starting to be seen as old fashioned, other methods of letter writing have also fallen by the wayside.) Over 1600 have been found over the decades since the first discovery. Together, they are among the oldest letters in British history.
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.
I am not a particularly massive fan of Oasis. I know their biggest songs (everyone knows Wonderwall) and I am also aware of the decades long fervent animosity that still remains between brothers Liam and Noel. Perhaps you’re wondering the relevance (or rather lack of it) to this article, yet as I sit down at my desk, searching for inspiration for this piece, in the next room my Dad’s vinyl of Oasis’ Half the World Away’ is crackling and whirring as the needle first presses onto the record.
‘For me it is always really important to go and meet the story. The need to go to Chartres was obvious for me, and I went several times for this story. It was important just walking around, even though it has changed so much since the time in which I was researching, just to see the way the wind moves over the land and how the sun rises and falls. There were limits to for me to explore, also you find yourself up against the limits of your own skin.’
It’s funny how your mind gives a face to a voice, isn’t it? How do you imagine me? Do you imagine me plain? Am I detailed? Have you read my name and assigned a character to me? This letter is for you.
Ever since its’ inception in 1997, the Dublin based magazine The Stinging Fly has been dedicated to seeking out, nurturing, publishing, and promoting new writers and new writing. After its first print in 1998 under founders Aoife Kavangh and Declan Meade, the independent magazine has expanded to become a book publisher, education provider and online platform. The literary magazine prints an eclectic collection of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, with a notable focus on short stories.
Letter by Sonya Moore
P.S. My editor read this letter to you, and wondered if the talk of creative process imposes distance.
How to get closer?
I booked cheap tickets to Chartres.
Then, because my chest was tight in anticipation of pain, a hotel with more stars than my budget allowed.
‘The escapade offer,’ I confirmed, to a silky-voiced receptionist. ‘For two.’
Perhaps it’s a mix between my hopeless romantic personality and the fact I’m an English student that has made me think the ultimate gesture of love is a handwritten love letter. It also helps that they appear repeatedly in movies and books, and even in real life. Well, others’ lives I assume, not mine.
I have never met my neighbours. Occasionally I hear Flat 2 pottering around downstairs or the sound of Flat 8’s washing machine spinning through the wall. Sometimes I catch a few notes of Flat 3’s interesting music taste (I’m talking Kid Rock at 8am) through the ceiling. But none of us have ever spoken.
‘I was walking, and I passed by this botanical garden, stumbling on this wild corner of it. In Belgrade, there are lots of overgrown, luscious green spaces; there weren’t any mowed lawns. Sometimes, you would see people come out of their houses to plant things in what seemed like random spaces, and whilst they were overgrown, you could sense they were still tended and cared for. Within the city people were totally surrounded by plants, by pockets of wild, growing spaces which I was able to explore.’