Blog Archive

Saturday, 5 January 2013


Work for Week 2
                                                                   Letter as model

Write a piece (poem, drama, fiction) in which you use the letter as your model.   You can make the letter formal or informal,  outspoken or discreet,   private or public,  to the living or the dead,  personal or impersonal.   Think first of the main emotion behind the letter, why the person felt they had to write it.   Love letters are difficult because whatever you do they are always apt to sound fake and/or OTT.  How do you get over this?  As a start, avoid clichés!    Pinter manages to convey a kind of love without mentioning the word 'love' at all.  Also, both Montale and Hardy write wonderful poems about their dead wives.

Two examples of imaginary letters.  The poem is by Harold Pinter.  The piece of fiction is from The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

JOSEPH BREARLEY  by Harold Pinter
Dear Joe, I’d like to walk with you
From Clapton Pond to Stamford Hill
And on,
Through Manor House to Finsbury Park,
And back,
On the dead 653 trolleybus,
To Clapton Pond,
And walk across the shadows on to Hackney Downs,
And stop by the old bandstand,
You tall in moonlight,
And the quick shadow in which it persists.
You’re gone. I’m at your side,
Walking with you from Clapton Pond to Finsbury Park,
And on, and on.

1977, Teacher of English

 from     The Color Purple by Alice Walker

You better not never tell nobody but God. It'd kill your mammy.

Dear God,

     I am fourteen years old. I am I have always been a good girl. Maybe you can give me a sign letting me know what is happening to me.
     Last spring after little Lucious come I heard them fussing. He was pulling on her arm. She say It too soon, Fonso, I ain't well. Finally he leave her alone. A week go by, he pulling on her arm again. She say Naw, I ain't gonna. Can't you see I'm already half dead, an all of these chilren.
     She went to visit her sister doctor over Macon. Left me to see after the others. He never had a kine word to say to me. Just say You gonna do what your mammy wouldn't. First he put his thing up gainst my hip and sort of wiggle it around. Then he grab hold my titties. Then he push his thing inside my pussy. When that hurt, I cry. He start to choke me, saying You better shut up and git used to it.
     But I don't never git used to it. And now I feels sick every time I be the one to cook. My mama she fuss at me an look at me. She happy, cause he good to her now. But too sick to last long.

Dear God,

Mr. ______ finally come right out an ast for Nettie hand in marriage. But He won't let her go. He say she too young, no experience. Say Mr. ______ got too many children already. Plus What about the scandal his wife cause when somebody kill her? And what about all this stuff he hear bout Shug Avery? What bout that?
     I ast our new mammy bout Shug Avery. What it is? I ast. She don't know but she say she gon fine out.
     She do more then that. She git a picture. The first one of a real person I ever seen. She say Mr. ______ was taking somethin out his billfold to show Pa an it fell out an slid under the table. Shug Avery was a woman. The most beautiful woman I ever saw. She more pretty then my mama. She bout ten thousand times more prettier then me. I see her there in furs. Her face rouge. Her hair like somethin tail. She grinning with her foot up on somebody motocar. Her eyes serious tho. Sad some.
     I ast her to give me the picture. An all night long I stare at it. An now when I dream, I dream of Shug Avery. She be dress to kill, whirling and laughing.

Dear God,

I ast him to take me instead of Nettie while our new mammy sick. But he just ast me what I'm talking bout. I tell him I can fix myself up for him. I duck into my room and come out wearing horsehair, feathers, and a pair of our new mammy high heel shoes. He beat me for dressing trampy but he do it to me anyway.
     Mr. ______ come that evening. I'm in the bed crying. Nettie she finally see the light of day, clear. Our new mammy she see it too. She in her room crying. Nettie tend to first one, then the other. She so scared she go out doors and vomit. But not out front where the two mens is.
     Mr. ______ say, Well Sir, I sure hope you done change your mind.
     He say, Naw, Can't say I is.
     Mr. ______ say, Well, you know, my poor little ones sure could use a mother.
     Well, He say, real slow, I can't let you have Nettie. She too young. Don't know nothing but what you tell her. Sides, I want her to git some more schooling. Make a schoolteacher out of her. But I can let you have Celie. She the oldest anyway. She ought to marry first. She ain't fresh tho, but I spect you know that. She spoiled. Twice. But you don't need a fresh woman no how. I got a fresh one in there myself and she sick all the time. He spit, over the railing. The children git on her nerve, she not much of a cook. And she big already.
     Mr. ______ he don't say nothing. I stop crying I'm so surprise.
     She ugly. He say. But she ain't no stranger to hard work. And she clean. And God done fixed her. You can do everything just like you want to and she ain't gonna make you feed it or clothe it.
     Mr. ______ still don't say nothing. I take out the picture of Shug Avery. I look into her eyes. Her eyes say Yeah, it bees that way sometime.
     Fact is, he say, I got to git rid of her. She too old to be living here at home. And she a bad influence on my other girls. She'd come with her own linen. She can take that cow she raise down there back of the crib. But Nettie you flat out can't have. Not now. Not never.
     Mr. ______ finally speak. Clearing his throat. I ain't never really look at that one, he say.
     Well, next time you come you can look at her. She ugly. Don't even look like she kin to Nettie. But she'll make the better wife. She ain't smart either, and I'll just be fair, you have to watch her or she'll give away everything you own. But she can work like a man.
     Mr. ______ say How old she is?
     He say, She near twenty. And another thing-She tell lies.

Perhaps you'd count this is a kind of letter?  
Or is it a sort of prayer?

from XENIA II by Eugenio Montale 
        (translated by G Singh

With my arm in yours I have descended at least a million stars,
and now that you aren't here, a  void opens at each step.
Even so our long journey has been brief.
Mine continues still, though I've no more use
for connections, bookings, traps,
and the disenchantment of him who believes
that the real is what one sees.

I have descended millions of stairs with my arm in yours,
not, of course, that with four eyes one might see better.
I descended them because I knew
that even though so bedimmed
yours were the only true eyes.

No comments:

Post a Comment