As I wrote in my beginning, I enjoyed this book more than I expected to. I struggle with poetry, and the snippets included here out of context (it seemed to me) challenged me. I was not familiar with the protagonists. But quickly their voices and personalities revealed themselves; and the story of James Wright’s death, and the introduction to this book by his wife, add a poignancy. There’s something about knowing the sad ending to a story before you read it.
I found many lovely lines (naturally) and scraps of wisdom here. My instinct is to just begin sharing those with you.
I enjoyed Wright’s lines,
I hope you don’t mind post cards. They are a way of sharing something, some place or other delight, and they can also, when written and sent truly, offer small wavelets, so to speak, to the rhythm of a correspondence.
and perhaps even more, that he wrote so instructively, so consciously of this – that he felt the need, and the meta-quality of explaining one’s correspondence. They were still kind of new to each other, you see.
I always resented Shakespeare’s use of the delayed messenger in Romeo and Juliet, maybe because such things are so ordinary and so possible, and so much can be lost for two people that way.
which is both amusing, and profound, and a little confusing – why resent the use of something ordinary and enormous, and isn’t that what we do as writers? Hm.
I believe more than ever that it is in sharing the stories of our grief that we somehow can make sense out – no, not make sense out of these things… But through stories from each other we can feel that we are not alone, that we are not the first and the last to confront losses such as these.
and I think of the impulse we all seem to share to tell our stories in response to one another. This can be selfish. One person shares something personal and painful, and the response is “well I…” or “my…” as if to turn it back to the speaker every time. But Silko has a point, that there is a function to this return-to-me, and that in the right setting & relationship it’s how we perform empathy. I think about this in conversation sometimes, the effort to not always “me” everything. But it can be well done.
And very pertinently to nonfiction writers in particular, Silko again –
Memory is tricky – memory for certain facts or details is probably more imaginative than anything, but the important this is to keep the feeling the story has. I never forget that: the feeling one has of the story is what you must strive to bring forth faithfully.
This is the trick, or the puzzle, and the much-discussed central problem, with creative nonfiction or with memoir: the tension between strict “fact” (which is what, exactly?) and the richness of imaginative memory. See also Sejal H. Patel’s “Think Different” in issue 58 of Creative Nonfiction (I reviewed here), where she and other memoirists explore the use of technologies to aid memory.
Finally, and perhaps most centrally to the question of correspondence in general and especially between writers:
With you to write to, I go through the day with a certain attention I might not always have. I look for things you might want to see for yourself, but I can’t seem to get them into a letter.
I enjoyed reading this slim epistolary collection, and I think I got a lot out of it. But what was I supposed to get out of it? Despite a few classes taken early this year, I feel rusty at reading literature with a class in mind, and I am so curious about what the seminar that assigned this book will hold. Most of all, I’m excited. So thank you, school and world, for that.