Posts Tagged ‘The American Scholar’

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Erasure Poem, “Every Letter is a Love Letter” by Jennifer Sinor, The American Scholar, Spring 2021

I was fascinated by the article in The American Scholar by Jennifer Sinor, “Every Letter is a Love Letter.” She wrote of how Georgia O’Keefe wrote letters for years to her husband. The thing that drew me in was the language, the words in the article expressing the space that letters provide. There is the space of time between the writing and the receiving. In this day when a message can be sent before you even check the spelling, words can fly across vast spaces in a millisecond. I wanted to capture this idea somehow, so I thought of using erasure poetry.

The frustration for me was erasing the other words. So many artists do it in a way that somehow preserves the words behind the erasure. I tried different things so I ended up with a layered look that I don’t hate. I’ve typed the words I kept into poem form below:

Every Letter

we find those spaces void
you see canyons
empty spaces reveal vastness
Time in life’s work
experience of being in art
we fit ourselves

I wrote to my husband
Before long He left quiet communion,
heart of prayer, easy, difficult love letters.
You take your wounds handwritten
to be unrecognizable.

A letter is time–
rest in the gap

across space

binding us

to moment

to everyone–

Margaret Simon, erasure poem

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

My husband and I are very different readers. He stays up late and reads mystery novels. I, on the other hand, go to bed early with middle grade realistic fiction. He reads news on his tablet while I read blogs.  He reads The New Yorker, and I read Oprah magazine.

But yesterday, he handed me The American Scholar. (He’s the Phi Beta Kappa.) The Editor’s Note was about the writings of Brian Doyle. One essay mentioned was “Joyas Voladoras.” I was able to say, “I’ve read that!” It’s the first essay that Katherine Bomer analyzes in her book, “The Journey is Everything.”

Then Jeff said, “Have your read ‘Leap’? You have to read it.” He handed me his tablet. I finished with tears in my eyes.

Then I read “How Did You Become a Writer.”  This is just what I needed to read. For all of you in this Slice of Life Challenge, we are on day 20. The writing is getting harder. We are feeling like everything we put on the page is garbage. So this is for you and for me, Top Ten Things a Writer Must Do as taken from Brian Doyle’s essay.

  1. Be honest with yourself.
  2. Expect no money for your writing.
  3. Listen.
  4. Energize your verb choice.
  5. When in doubt, cut it out.
  6. Make writing a regular part of your day.
  7. Delete mere catharsis.
  8. Find the right title.
  9. Be a witness to the world.
  10. Submit.


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