Dear Readers -
And for manuscript librarians as Carmin is -- as my grandfather was at the Library of Congress -- even a hard copy print out of a letter lacks authenticity. Sure, handwritten letters can be (and at times were) forged; but in cyber space, it is much harder to be sure of the original author or words. Much too easy to add, subtract, and change when a letter is printed out. And perhaps the long piece of paper or pretty greeting card inspires someone to write at greater length. I admit that I carry on a letter-length email exchange with two particular friends, sending what many of our pop savvy students might characterize as "tl, dr" (too long, didn't read). But maybe this trend to brevity affects blogging culture. Some bloggers - such as my friends and colleagues Michael, Paula, and Anne-Marie -- write long, thoughtful posts. I wish I did. More often my posts seem to me to be "snippets of prose" sent out like Dickinson's "This is my letter to the world" (though never so poetically!). And I think that most blog readers prefer the long meditative substantive posts - am I right? Maybe it's because I always have so much on my mind that I usually end up with something fairly short and wishing I had gone deeper.
What Carmin laments greatly is that exchange of creative thoughts and especially poetry (to judge from the authors whose work he quotes -- Donald Hall, Barry Lopez, William Stafford, Ted Kooser. And without letters how are we to have published books of letters, such as the one I have of Rachel Carson's letters (somewhat poetic?) or of Chekhov. It's wonderful to read the thoughts of these authors, like entering into their daily lives.
Check out Carmine's article which I hope reproduces in the online version the illustration from the actual newspaper of a postcard sent by Allan Ginsberg to William Burroughs on 1965 mentioning Ginsberg's trip through Oregon (saw Crater Lake & The Beatles). What fun it is to be back in that moment.