photo by Mary Lynn Richard


cor·re·spond·ence /ˌkôrəˈspändəns/  n.  1. a close similarity, connection, or equivalence. 2.  communication by exchanging letters with someone.


Note: I wrote this post on May 22, 2012 . I set it aside, thinking I would add to it and neglected it it for awhile. Posting it now, in its May form. If you don’t know of The Rumpus or Letters in the Mail, you should check both out (links below)!


What is it about letter writing that allows for such closeness and intimacy?

Last year, The Rumpus started a “Letters in the Mail” program, wherein authors would scribe letters and The Rumpus would send them to subscribers through the mail. I signed up immediately.

And then this past April, they invited subscribers to participate in “Letters to Each Other,” where subscribers would send in a letter (no more than one page, front and back) with a SASE envelope. Then their letters would be sent to six people and they would receive six letters in return.

I received my letter last Thursday, and I cannot tell you how exciting it was to open my mailbox and find that thick envelope.

I think what I love most about letters is their real vulnerability. Letters are not theoretical, they are meant to be a container for one’s thoughts and ideas, a place for truth to be relayed. Even letters between artists that involve philosophy and intellectual spiralings typically also involve a moment of doubt. These are not set in stone, they are inked on paper. In that way they are ephemeral. They are meant to be recordings of a moment. I love this too, their in-the-momentness, their sheerness, their see-through nature.

I wrote my first reply today, and what I was amazed at was not only my ability to but my desire to share intimate details of my life with someone who is an almost complete stranger. Is it the anonymity? Maybe that’s part of it, but we do know each others’ names, at least she will have mine now. I think it is also because she shared intimate details with me, ones that although differing from my experience, I could relate to, and I valued so much that emotional honesty.

Letters are drawings of our names in the sand. They reveal who we are in this precise time of being, a being that is unstable, a self that will change. They are a place that, beyond beautiful prose or constructed narrative or clarity of thought or firm declarations, simply demand honest reflection and an attempt at connection. And we all have the ability to offer that. And isn’t that at the end of the day what we most need from one another? what we most need to offer of ourselves?

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