The Letter Project

October 10, 2010

Special Delivery (68)

Filed under: Letters — Theresa Williams @ 6:04 pm
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Joan Fraser shares her thoughts on writing and mental illness in this letter to Caitlin Griscom, her daughter.  (TW)


Dearest Reader and Chil’ O Mine

Such a tardy response: I apologize.  I wrote a letter to you in response to yours dated March 12th.  I wrote so beautifully and eloquently relating great insight into writers, their personal lives and how they influence us….oh, yes, I also solved the issue of global warming in that letter.

Truth be told: dividing my time between two households has taken its toll.  I find myself in Powell today tending to the youngster or, as you know him, the eating talking machine.  I do have a letter typed for you at home on my computer but I felt the need to be more timely and not wait until I was at home again.

In your letter, you shared that Wright was influenced by Trakl: “Wright sought to emulate many of Trakl’s writing tenants.” I think it interesting that they had several things in common.  Trakl struggled with addiction and mental illness.  There are those they believe that  Trakl had schizophrenia that was never diagnosed.  It is certain that he struggled with depression.  There is no doubt that his depression became more severe as he was forced to provide care for severely wounded soldiers in WWI. I don’t know if you are aware of this- Trakl committed suicide.  I believe that there are those among us who are so acutely aware of the pain in living, the pain in dying, and the loss in stagnation that they carry that insight and pain to the point of self destruction.

There is one thing I have in common with Trakl; he and I both began writing poetry at young ages. I started when I was 12 and it is reported that he began around age 13.  I am not sure I have any of my early writings.  As an adult, I read them and felt a sense of sorrow for the young girl who wrote them.  Many of those early writings were about death and dying and about having a sense of being homeless in the world.

Okay…how to segue into a lighter subject….distracted by the eating, now hyperverbal talking machine … no, not the child, his father came home….

For you…dear writer…I noted “I have found that in Wright’s willingness to be honestly weak, there is strength.”  That is such a true line for writers as well as the general population.  Today I reread your letter and that line made me stop.  I had just experienced something that made your sentence take on a true and verifiable meaning.  I was involved in assisting with interview at the hospital today.  I was asked by another discipline to help interview candidates.  It was the second round of interviews. This particular interviewee did not preform well in his first interview but was given a second chance due to someone advocating for him.  He came into the boardroom finding himself facing 8 people.  He was nervous as evidenced by his difficulty with eye contact and struggles gathering his thoughts.  I noticed that he had a beanie baby on the table.  In my head, I knew my question would be,”Hey dude, what’s up with the beanie baby?”  (Okay, I wouldn’t have said “hey dude.”)  But without any one asking, he picked up the beanie and said, “I bet you’re wondering why I have this.  My daughter gave it to me this morning and told me to relax and be myself. It is to remind me that she believes in me.”  He went on to explain that one of his challenges is his need for approval from others. He shared that when he focuses on that area of concern, he does not present his authentic (my word) self.  He brought out his “weakness” and it gave him strength.

There is one last thing I wanted to write about regarding your letter.  You wrote about the poem “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island Minnesota.” I won’t address Wright’s need to shorten his titles at this time:  by typing the complete title it makes this letter that much longer.  His last line,  “I have wasted my life” is left for each reader to ascertain its meaning for him or herself.  That is the beautiful thing about poetry, each reader has the ability to gain something from it that is unique. There is much to learn from those in our would who have a talent for writing.  They can give the reader the ability to experience all range of emotions without actually going through the trying experiences.

I love your writings,

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