A letter from Melanie Tokar to Theresa Williams
Suzy Anderson writes to Melanie Tokar to talk about literature and the seasons. –TW
July 7, 2011
I was so excited when I got your letter in the mail Saturday! My parents and younger two siblings were visiting last weekend, so Mom walked with me to the mailbox. We went to Finders and I found a copy of “Interview with the Vampire.” I am so happy to watch it again! I did get a job at Meijer—yay! I’m still in training so I haven’t officially started yet. It’ll be nice to have a paycheck coming in.
I completely understand “…I believe the written word carries the author’s energy…” and I hope that my letters give you energy! It was my pleasure to share a part of my childhood with you. It wasn’t til I wrote the letter that I realized how much fantasy and science fiction impacted my writing. Probably explains why magic realism seemed easier (in spring semester 2009) to write than reality. That is not the case now, at least not as much. I’m glad BGSU has helped us both take adventures; I know I didn’t really take spontaneous trips til I gravitated to shops downtown like Grounds and Happy Badger on a whim. It is totally worth it when it’s only a little walk and a chance to get away from college life. I can’t wait to read “Thunder Struck” and hear what you think of “The Point of Poetry.”
The Bridal Veil Falls sounds lovely! I’m glad you have a place to go where you can remember your Dad. Hopefully you’ll be able to hear his voice again, maybe sometime this summer. I love that you hear “…all is right with the world.” We need those moments to live through times when the world isn’t a nice place.
Summer rain is magical, and the only other weather as magical in my opinion is snow in winter (the soft kind that falls gently). Spring and fall have a different magic celebrating new life and death. But the chapter “August” in Bruno Schulz’s “The Street of Crocodiles” describes the magic of summer in such a way that I could imagine summer even though I am surrounded by the season. For an example of his description of summer: “The dark second-floor apartment of the house in Market Square was shot through each day by the naked heat of summer: the silence of the shimmering streaks of air, the squares of brightness dreaming their intense dreams on the floor; the sound of a barrel organ rising from the deepest golden vein of day; two or three bars of a chorus, played on a distant piano over and over again, melting in the sun on the white pavement, lost in the fire of high noon” (Schulz 3).
Seasons have always seemed to play a part in art. The season gives clues to the characters’ surroundings and the time of year in stories. Naturally the seasons give the cycle of birth and death. Each season is different but plays a necessary role in nature’s process.
I think every artist has to approach the seasons in some way. It’s like every poet needs to write at least one love poem, or a villanelle, or a sonnet in Shakespearean style. Experimenting with these different forms and styles of poets who influenced poetry helps the poet understand the history of poetry and interact with it in some way. In a sense, make the old new with a fresh perspective. I know for myself I wrote mostly free verse before I took the first poetry workshop at BGSU. The restraints of forms helped me push beyond and find lines that speak truths in a new way. It wasn’t what I normally wrote, so I was interacting with the history of poetry to find my own style. Now it’s hard for me to write without form. Usually I start with a short poem, revise until I don’t know what to do with it, translate it into a form, and then cut from there to find the poem the way it was meant to be. I have Larissa to thank for that process when we worked on short poems last semester. Thanks to Sharona for giving form prompts for workshop last fall. Now it seems I write nothing but short poems.
One reason we study different time periods is to understand how authors and poets shaped the writing and reading world with their work. Without studying them, we couldn’t build on their foundations and reach new heights. So even though I don’t want to write only about the seasons, I’ll write (and have written) a couple of poems to donate my seasonal perspective to readers.
Here’s one of my summer poems.
“Summer Bike Rides”
Absorb the sun and draw it
to your breast where it will
lay inside your heart to bring
sunshine that drips from pores.
P.S. My favorite season is fall, mostly because it’s when my birthday falls (sorry, I love puns, even the ones I write accidentally such as that one), but also because I love vibrant colors, mostly orange (and brown), our school colors. But there’s something about death that strikes me because there’s a hope that life will return in the spring. What’s your favorite season and why?
Melanie Tokar replies to Suzy Anderson’s letter, telling about an adventure of her own. –TW
Hello! I apologize for not replying to your letter – yesterday I was stuck at work and in the evening I finished reading “Living Dead in Dallas” by Charlaine Harris. I have the day off today, and I much prefer writing letters on days when my body, mind, and spirit are all at ease. I believe the written word carries the author’s energy to the person receiving the letter, so I always make sure I’m in a positive state of mind whenever I sit down to compose one. 🙂
speaking of letters, thank you very much for the one you wrote to me last week. I feel honored that you’ve shared such a personal (and integral) part of your childhood with me! I can greatly relate to what you’d said about not being able to find adventure within the boundaries of reality. After living with a controlling mother for nearly 28 years, it wasn’t til I reached the age of 24 (when I started at BGSU, actually) when I started to allow myself to go on my own adventures, withotu worrying about when I should be home, or what I should be doing elsewhere. Heh, didn’t you discuss this 6-letter curse word in your letter? I just now realized this…
Anyway, I’m proud of you for venturing through that rain storm! I love to stand in a downpour for several seconds – there is something renewing about summer rain that is pure magick (fantasy in reality – a fine example right there!).
I went on my own little adventure this past Monday, on a complete whim. I visited the Bridal Veil Falls park, an area surrounded by trees and where the famous Tinker’s Creek drops into a canyon and flows through the middle of Valley View. I believe Alice would have LOVED this place. 🙂 My dad brought me here all the time as a kid, and whenever I come here I feel his presence, and can almost hear his voice (something I haven’t actually heard in 5 years) tell me that all is right with the world.
And of course, I believe him – he’s my dad. 🙂
Well chica, dinner is ready so I must set the table and summon my mom in from the garden. 😉 I’ll read the story you emailed me after dinner…and also send you an electronic copy of my story “Thunder Struck” as well. Good luck on your job hunt! I greatly look frorward to hearing from you again. 🙂
On The Letter Project Facebook page, I challenged people to write a letter based on Alice Hindman’s adventure in Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. In Suzy Anderson’s letter to friend and classmate Melanie Tokar, Suzy makes connections between art and life. –TW
How are you? How’s your summer so far? I’m working on getting a job, otherwise reading and writing in my spare time when I’m not at the BG News.
I finished reading “Winesburg, Ohio” by Sherwood Anderson. Hearing tales about people’s ordinary lives haven’t always fascinated me. I grew up reading fantasy and science fiction, so when I began reading short stories and novels in the literary vein, I didn’t know what to do at first. After reading several stories, I realized reality is more interesting than I gave it credit to be. I guess I wanted my life to be extraordinary and that the only way I could do it was through alternate worlds and dimensions. Yet there are human qualities in those imaginative stories. I was using imagination to understand reality when I could also use other characters’ realities to understand my reality.
In Alice’s story, “Adventure” in “Winesburg, Ohio,” the narrator says, “And then one night when it rained Alice had an adventure” (Anderson 63). She did indeed with running in the rain. She acted on impulse and didn’t stop to think and talk herself out of it. I did something similar earlier this summer when I was riding my bike downtown to run some errands. When I exited the store, it had started to rain and thunder. I could’ve stopped somewhere and waited for the storm to lighten or end, but I didn’t. I wanted to go home. The sooner the better.
I rode my bike through campus and down the neighborhood roads to get home. But along the way, there were puddles and puddle-free spots. At times I rode through the puddles just to see what it would feel like. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that was probably a bad idea, but I told myself I was going to get wet anyway with the rain. Why not have some fun and take my mind off the thunder to make the trip home less scary?
Knowing me, this experience certainly prompted a short story that is still in progress. The point is, I think everyone needs adventures once in a while. They break the monotony of daily life and give us something to look forward to. There always seems to be a lesson to learn on adventures. Alice needed a moment to feel youthful and courageous because she wanted Ned to return to her. In the end, she “…began trying to force herself to face bravely the fact that many people must live and die alone, even in Winesburg” (Anderson 64).
Maybe that’s why I was drawn to fantasy and science fiction as a kid. I wanted adventure where I could learn from the characters and journey away from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, to new worlds I couldn’t access as a child other than through books. I still take adventures through printed (and electronic) pages. But once in a while, I don’t mind taking a real-life adventure to learn something new about myself.