The Letter Project

February 19, 2012

Special Delivery (186)

Filed under: Letters,Mailart — Theresa Williams @ 12:13 am
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A special call from Guido Vermeulen to REBEL, REBEL

Send art or writing on the subject of rebellion to:

Guido Vermeulen

Thomas Vincottestreet 81

B 1030 Brussels


Call to Rebel (front) From Guido Vermeulen to Theresa Williams


Call to Rebel. (Back). From Guido Vermeulen to Theresa Williams


Guido's painted envelope, titled "The Fish Rebellion"


zine cover by Guido Vermeulen


zine: inside. Words by John M. Bennett. "Les Secrets Importantes de L'Instant"


zine: inside. Words by John M. Bennett. "Les Secrets Importantes de L'Instant"


zine: inside. Words by John M. Bennett. "Les Secrets Importantes de L'Instant"


February 16, 2012

Special Delivery (185)

Filed under: Letters,Mailart — Theresa Williams @ 9:01 pm
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A letter to Theresa Williams from Guido Vermeulen (Belgium)

From Guido (Belgium) to Theresa (USA)


From Guido (Belgium) to Theresa (USA)


From Guido (Belgium) to Theresa (USA)


From Guido (Belgium) to Theresa (USA)From Guido (Belgium) to Theresa (USA)


From Guido (Belgium) to Theresa (USA)


Special Delivery (184)

Filed under: Mailart — Theresa Williams @ 8:50 pm
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From Nancy Bell Scott (USA) to Svenja Wahl (Germany)

February 14, 2012

Special Delivery (183)

Filed under: Mailart — Theresa Williams @ 8:23 pm
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From Stefano Fossiant Sini (Italy) to Theresa Williams

Special Delivery (182)

Filed under: Mailart — Theresa Williams @ 8:16 pm
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From Laurence Gillot (France) to Theresa Williams

Special Delivery (181)

Filed under: Letters — Theresa Williams @ 8:10 pm
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From Jim Lampe to Theresa Williams

Special Delivery (180)

Filed under: Letters — Theresa Williams @ 7:58 pm
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From Sally Baker Reece to Theresa Williams

From Sally to Theresa


Special Delivery (179)

Filed under: Letters,Mailart — Theresa Williams @ 7:40 pm
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A letter and ATC (Artist Trading Card) from Angie and Snooky to Theresa Williams

From Angie & Snooky to Theresa Williams

Special Delivery (177, 178)

Filed under: Mailart — Theresa Williams @ 7:26 pm

The saga continues:  mystery letters 3 and 4

Special Delivery (176)

Filed under: Letters — Theresa Williams @ 6:40 pm
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A letter from Melanie Tokar to Theresa Williams



Special Delivery (174, 175)

Filed under: Mailart — Theresa Williams @ 6:27 pm

I recently received several mysterious posts.  Very exciting work.  Here are the first two:  front and back.

Card 1, front


Special Delivery (173)

Filed under: Mailart — Theresa Williams @ 6:12 pm
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From Christina Green to Simon Warren


From Christina Green to Simon Warren (back)


February 7, 2012

Special Delivery (172)

Filed under: Letters — Theresa Williams @ 6:56 pm
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Brooke Sheridan is a writer who teaches English at the University of Maine. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Harpur Palate, Avatar Review, THIS Literary Magazine, Permafrost, Boxcar Poetry Review, and elsewhere, and she keeps a “hilarious” blog at

 She says of her correspondence with Amanda:

Amanda Bales and I started writing to each other while she was living in Ireland and I was still living in Alaska, where we met. I missed Amanda, and wanted to communicate with her, but international phone calls were too complicated for me to think about and email seemed an insufficient means of communicating with a writer living in Ireland. Letters in longhand, often illustrated, became our primary means of talking with each other. In my most recent letter to Amanda, I’m continuing our discussion of how we became writers, why we write, and who influences us.

And this is why she writes letters:    

The first letters I wrote were to my Estonian pen pal Yefim, back in the 80’s. I then began a substantial correspondence with my older brother Seth, producing discussions that we’ve never been able to achieve in person. I also spent about two years writing elaborate, anonymous love letters to Gabe, the high school crush I’ll never quite get over. I think I never spoke more than about twenty words to him in person, but I sent him pages and pages of letters and poems and drawings. And when my anonymity failed, he even wrote me back a couple of times, gently. And since then, I’ve maintained a hand-written correspondence with anyone who’ll write back. I like the air that surrounds the act of writing on paper, the invisible thread that connects people more intimately than email or certainly text, and in a way different and more deliberate than a phone call. I also love the artifact: the bundles of letters I find in a box in the closet, from an eight-month correspondence with a boy I loved once; from my mom while I was deployed to Baghdad; from my nephew when he was just learning how to write. Lots more.   

Letter to Amanda -1


Letter to Amanda - 2


Letter to Amanda - 3


Oh hello Amanda,                                                                                           28 January 2012

 I’m typing this because I’m quitting smoking and I do not have the patience to wait for myself to write in longhand. So here I sit at my kitchen table, drinking gallons of water because that’s the form my grief has taken. Grief over not smoking. I’m being dramatic.

 I started writing poems and stories in first or second grade, whenever people learn how to write. My mom has saved a huge amount of my school stuff, from K-11 (when I dropped out), including deficiency notices and suspension reports. (One cites: “Failure to attend a pep rally.” Another: “Brook [sic] doesn’t seem to show any interest in the subject, and doodles or reads novels in class.” – Geometry.) (Actually I wasn’t reading novels, I recall clearly that I was reading a book of plays, and I lost my spot in Tartuffe when Mr. West demanded that I put my book away and plot something on something.) (Mr. West used to be the wood shop teacher, but was moved to geometry, and away from heavy equipment, after whacking a student in the head with a 2×4. On purpose.) (The bookmark I was using in my book of plays was a real four-leaf clover I had found in our front yard when I was 9 and had pressed in wax paper.)

 Anyway one of my first poems was about a rabbit named “Fred.” I chose the name Fred because it rhymes with dead, and both rhyming and death were important to me then. My mom saved the poem: it’s three stanzas, each composed of two rhyming couplets (is there a name for that?) and it’s illustrated with a picture of a white rabbit standing under a rainbow. Not to ruin it, but the rabbit dies in the end.

 At that age, I’m not sure what inspired all the death in my poems and stories. I do remember, around age ten, starting to read a faux-leather-bound book my mom kept on the coffee table called “100 Best Loved Poems.” The first poem in that book I loved was Poe’s “The Raven,” followed quickly by Alfred Noyes’ “The Highwayman.” Narrative, rhyming, dark, someone dies. Also Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!” wherein “fallen cold and dead” appears three times. I was reading these poems at the same time as I was watching Thundercats cartoons after school. That type of writing seemed illicit and dangerous, and I guess I was after a bit of that. Roseville, PA, where I lived until I was 13, was a hamlet of about 200 people, with a general store and two churches. It’s surrounded by woods, and that’s where I spent most of my non-cartoon-watching time. There was also a cemetery on a little hill up the road from my house. I used to go there and try to read the names on the oldest gravestones. Also wild strawberries grew on the plots in the southwest corner and I’d go up to eat those. They were very sweet.

 More than any other type of writing, I still cranked out poems through high school. They were uniformly terrible. I wanted so much to say something that felt, to me at the time, dramatic and real. (One poem from 9th grade starts, “Why do the crows eyeballs bleed?” A question for the ages, teen Brooke. A question for the ages.) In high school I read Keats, Byron, Millay, and Shakespeare for poetry. They were so dramatic! And not that much older than I was. Where did all that drama come from? Was life really so different back then? And not reality-tv-drama, but real, like, stuff-is- happening-in-the-world-and-I-feel-it-drama.  At the same time I was reading Zola and Dostoyevsky and the Brontes and Orwell and…you can probably imagine I walked around scowling a lot. Orwell was as contemporary as I got, which is too bad, but I refused to read anything written after 1950, and for the most part I actually tried to keep it all pre-turn of the century.

 A highlight of my largely dim high school career was talking about Bryant’s “Thanatopsis” in 11th grade English with Mr. Horner (also the boys’ basketball coach). I’d never dissected a poem before; I’d always been in it for the language and the sentiment. But for that one hour, that one day, I stopped staring at the back of Juanita Shaw’s head and actually paid attention to my book because the words were transforming and taking on layers of meaning and poetry suddenly became…bigger.

 “So live, that when thy summons comes to join

The innumerable caravan which moves

To that mysterious realm where each shall take

His chamber in the silent halls of death…”

 And of course it speaks of death so I was rapt.

 And then I went to college in Missoula, and took an intro to poetry class. (Taught by Martha Sutro. I went to one of her readings in 1999. She used the phrase “like a nasturtium, full-blown,” and I’ll always remember that. I don’t know if she writes poetry anymore.) It wasn’t a workshop – we just read and talked about poetry. That was my first prolonged exposure to Auden, Ashbery, Moore, Wright, Frost, H.D., Williams … different sensibilities than what I had steeped myself in as a teenager.  Then, 13 or so years ago, I had a strong reaction to Robert Frost’s “Directive.”

 “Back out of all this now too much for us,

Back in a time made simple by the loss

Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off

Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather…”

 I’m still not tired of this poem. And it smacked me in the face, back then, with its attitude, so different from my theatrically yearning, longing Romantics (who I still love, btw). It was yearning and longing but also stoic. Straightforward and deceptive. Like passing someone on the street who says, you’re sure, “Hello.” So you keep walking but realize, after a moment, that the person may have said, “Hell, Oh!”

 There’s been a lot of other stuff, but those were my shaping experiences in poetry. I still read Keats but he’s different for me now. He’s bigger, too. They’re all bigger, since I’ve grown my soul. Now that I’ve seen death I’m not so taken with the pulp fiction imagery of it; now that I’ve lived through a couple of broken hearts (mine and others’), some of the longing doesn’t seem so silly.

 I read my Poetry magazine and always find good stuff. But you know who make me catch my breath nowadays, who make me want to cry sometimes? Airica Parker, Melina Draper, Lance Twitchell, Christopher Lee Miles, Ryan Ragan, Elizabeth Sharrock, Derick Burleson, Eddie Kim, Amanda Bales. Others I’m forgetting because I’ve been too long away. The poets I know will always mean one million times more to me than the poets everybody knows. I begin to understand why Frank O’Hara peppered his poems with the names of so many writers, artists, musicians, etc. who were not famous to anyone (at the time) but him.

 I’ll close soon, but first I want to respond to what you wrote about your first, great comp teacher: I had one, too, at Tyler School of Art outside Philadelphia. Composition was my first, official, academic class in college and my instructor was Paul Grillo and he was fantastic. He was maybe five and a half feet tall, quite bald if I remember correctly, but with a luxurious black mustache that made me think of those black and white photos of old-timey muscle men. He rolled large cuffs into the bottoms of his blue jeans and smoked a pipe and daily implored us, if we read only one more book in our lives, to make it One Hundred Years of Solitude and he would rolls the “r”s with relish as he said, “by Gabrrriel Garrrcia Marrrquez.”  And I read it and I’ve reread a couple of times and of course he was right about it.

 You’re also right: the impulse in this exercise is to write an essay. But I’m writing an essay to you, so it’s a letter so there.

 Some more truth: I could go the rest of my without writing another poem and be quite happy about it. But I couldn’t go without writing a letter or an essay.

 If I say “Cobra!” to Grady, he’ll respond, “Lalalalalala!” And that makes me happy. He also knows the names of all the robots on MST3K, as well as the majority of the Enterprise crew from both The Original Series and Next Generation.  Fights? Yeah, he’s going to get into some fights. He’ll probably point his Spongebob pencil at some dipshit in third grade and say, “You can thank me later for only setting my phaser to ‘stun.’”

 Sincerely, cordially, and with all due respect,



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