May newsletter - Everyday Words
I saw this and I thought of you...
Hello, and happy first Thursday in May to you.
I hope you’re well. I’ve been thinking about letters recently. Proper letters through the post. Or postcards even. I’ll never get used to how seeing my name on an envelope in proper handwriting always makes me a little excited. It’s local election day here in the UK so it makes a welcome change from candidates’ promises anyway.
These two photos (above and below) are from the project, Red Letters, organised by the artists, Daniel and Clara. I came across them at the London Art Fair, and I was immediately interested/obsessed. They are wonderful, look them up. If you’re a subscriber to Everyday Words, watch this space - I’m hoping they will come and talk to us soon about their practice and what we can learn from it for our writing.
But for today I wanted to send you a letter filled with all things sort of letter-y!
Does anyone remember the advertisement for the Royal Mail which had a strap line, ‘I saw this and thought of you’? That’s our theme for today.
And I’m going to end with one exercise taken from the Writing Practice Hour held for subscribers last month. I’m planning to hold similar events regularly now. Join us!
A poem for you
But first, because we’re talking about stationery, let me begin by one of my own poems, Love and Stationery. I wrote this poem when I first started working at the LSE and was told I could go to the stationery cupboard any time I wanted. ANY TIME I WANTED… now there’s love.
This poem is from my first collection, You Do Not Need Another Self-Help Book (Pindrop Press)
Love and Stationery Tonight, women dream of stationery; well thumbed catalogues hidden in bedside tables, falling open at filing solutions. Some promise this will be the last time, one final look at industrial size staplers, hole punches. Others take it further. Post-it notes edge their desire as they chase private rainbows husbands don’t understand. At lunchtime, propelled out by a need for highlighters, their fingers brush sellotape dispensers as they imagine being held by paperclips, protected by bubblewrap, wiped clean with Typex. In quiet moments, they will pull out new journals, those blank, lined, empty pages waiting to be filled; who knows what magic will result from an organized life? At bad times, when the ink runs dry, you will find a woman standing in front of an open stationery cupboard, the flutter of her heart stilled by the solid weight of correspondence quality paper.
A bag for you
I got this bag for Christmas from someone who knows me very well indeed, and I’ve never managed to use it without someone rushing up to admire it. So if you have problems telling your stationery from your stationary, may I recommend this portable and useful reminder… ! You can get it from Papersmiths, but be warned. The site is very wonderful indeed.
A song for you
God I love/d the Cure. I can’t remember the last time I watched a video of them, or even - shame on me - listened to them but I still knew this was the song I wanted to include in anything I did on letter-writing. Brilliant lyrics too. The perfect heartbreak letter.
A shop for you
Choosing Keeping is a stationery shop in London, tucked away in Tower Street, like a beautiful little secret.
For a long time I’ve had a desire to find the perfect fountain pen, one that would fit my hand, would flow nicely, would make me want to write letters. I’ve had affairs with Cross pens, one night stands with Lamys, and a childhood romance with Parkers. However, I’m happy to say that my Kaweco and I are now very well suited. I even treated it to some new colour ink cartridges the other day.
The good news is that the shop has a website too, and it’s just as beautiful as the real thing.
A film for you
Why are there so many film which have letters at their heart? Answers on a postcard please….
There’s a great list on this site, Max & Co Post, but I do think 84 Charing Cross Road has to be my favourite, based on the true letter-writing relationship between the American Helene Hanff, and the bookseller Frank Doel. And just think, if you want to search out where the original bookshop was (it’s a restaurant now), well then, Choosing Keeping (above) is just across the road. Definitely send me a postcard if you do this!
An exhibition for you
I wish I could have gone to the exhibition at the Smithsonian on Illustrated Letters but hey, the internet is a wonderful thing. Shall we visit it here together? And which one do you wish you’d received? Me, I love the one from Dorothea Tanning to Joseph Cornell.
A short story for you
My love for Lydia Davis is long-standing and well-documented and this story, Letter to a Frozen Peas Manufacturer is just perfect. Perhaps nothing beats Letter to a Funeral Parlor though. Cremains will always make me laugh more than it should.
A talk for you
A ‘I don’t know what to say’ piece of advice
Not so much a letter but twelve really helpful pieces of advice here to support a friend going through a bad time. From experience I know how much it means so much at these times to have someone say I know you’re still there and I don’t need anything back from you, but I want you to know I’m here too. Because isn’t that really what a letter is?
A writing exercise for you
Write a letter of appreciation to a writer you admire. Tell him or her what you like particularly about their work. What it has meant to you. Don’t ask for anything in return but treat your letter as a gift in return for their words. Tell them who you are maybe (just don’t send your 400 page manuscript). And now don’t be shy, pop it in the post. You can always send it to them via their publisher or agent.
And a second exercise (taken from an hour long Writing Practice workshop)…
And there we have it for May. I’m sure I had much more that I should have told you but it’s been a pleasure writing to you. Write back!
Here are some places I’ll be over the next couple of months if you want to meet in real life. It would be lovely to see you!
Saturday 11th June, I’ll be reading at Words and Music at the Skep, this will be fun!
Wednesday 15th June, I’ll be hosting a fundraising Garden Poetry Picnic at the Blackthorn Trust Garden. Bring your own poems, and enjoy some delicious Blackthorn cake!
Friday 17th June, together with my friends and fellow poets, Sian Thomas and Jill Munro, I’ll be running a workshop at the Tunbridge Wells Poetry Festival on good ways to collaborate for inspiration, friendship and workshopping. We’ve been doing it together every fortnight for three years now, so I think we’ve gathered some good practical tips between us to share!
Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th June, I’ll be talking separately with the amazing Jay Griffiths and Julia Blackburn about their new books at the Wealden Literary Festival
Sunday 17th July, I’ll be at one of my favourite places, the Poetry Pharmacy in Bishops Castle for a workshop on dealing with Imposter Syndrome and writing blocks.
Sunday 24th July, Lucy, founder of Flow Yoga and I are holding a mini-garden festival of pose and prose, joy and journals in the beautiful Flow garden in central Tunbridge Wells. We can’t wait to share our new discoveries in the world of healing, nourishing and energy. I think it’s fair to say we’ve got some treats in store.
ps My monthly letters are free and I’m always delighted when people find anything in them they want to send with a ‘I saw this and thought of you’… so please do.
I can also be found on social media - @sarahsalway - and on here every month (or even weekly if you want to subscribe.)