From the poet’s heart
Love letters reveal Canadian writers’ passion, power of words
Where the Nights Are Twice As Long: Love Letters of Canadian Poets Edited by David Eso and Jeanette Lynes Goose Lane Editions, 430 pages
In honour of Valentine’s Day, here are three excerpts of offerings of love by three Canadian writers. These appear in the collection from Where the Nights Are Twice As Long, published by Goose Lane Editions:
COLIN MORTON TO MARY LEE BRAGG (1972)
Dear Mary Lee, Well, my arrival in Toronto was hardly auspicious, and I started to get the feeling that I really hadn’t come anywhere in the past six years since I arrived before. It turns out that my Gramma is staying up at the lake all summer and didn’t get my message. I don’t know yet whether I’m going to be able to get hold of whatever you sent me at her place. I phoned the Davidsons’ place, and they were just leaving on holidays, so I walked down here to Ruth & Ken’s even though I was getting no answer on the telephone. (I got a number for John who lives out by the York campus and hasn’t been heard from for quite a while, but he wasn’t home — I’m trying to locate him now.) When I got here the house was dark and I figured they’d gone away for the weekend too. But the neighbours across the street had heard about me in passing and took me in, gave me tea & sandwiches, phoned Ken’s dad & found out they had just gone out for the evening. They arrived about midnight. Grampa Newton is staying with them, Craig sleeps in the dining room and I’m downstairs; so there are still problems about finding a place to stay — except that I have no money to speak of — especially if I still owe $10 on the course. There is the chance I can get uncle Lloyd to unlock Gramma’s mail for me.
Well (this seems to do as well as indentation opening paragraphs) I just phoned John who is staying at his parents’ while they’re away and he says I can go up there and drive his father’s car to the school. That sounds — I don’t know about that but in any case I’ll go up there now and talk to him, probably stay there tonight. I’ll write you some more tonight and tomorrow and maybe get this straightened away.
Well then, this is Sunday night. Since the above I’ve talked to you on the phone, and it was such a relief to hear you that I’m sorry now I didn’t talk longer. My phone paranoia somehow increases though with the distance — another of my irrational tics. Listen, if you’ll write and tell me when you’ll be home — and what time I can phone you again at the end of the week.
There’s something I want to say in this space, but it’s an emptiness where there’s usually a hug.
All of a sudden I feel somehow defeated; as though I’m launched on a battle with less than half my forces. Please send some morale support. I’m sure I’ll feel better about tomorrow — unless my works are the first to be discussed and then set aside as finished with. I’m going to go to sleep now, that will help. And I’m certain that it’s not going to be a battle tomorrow — except if I have to fight the traffic four times every day, the pace could be a depletion instead of an exhilaration.
Well, it’s going to be exhausting, I know that. Good night.
I am drifting between four walls — such a feeble space capsule — stationary — amid the passing crowded void. My message to you is weak — as a radio beam at the far end of the band — late at night — scattered in the stratosphere. We locate one another only by triangulation — on the surface of the moon. But we see never the same moon — a pale spot among half-lit buildings — a face sadly twisted — the reflector of disjointed signals. And the moon — who is he — but an indifferent glow upon us — caught in the teeming action — of a drop — saying nothing — only — stop — there is time — there is room — there is nowhere — else to go. The moonlight rests — on the roofs of frantic cars — strung out — along the highway out — of sight — rests — on the quivering antennae — serene — as on the rolling water of a lake — saying nothing.
Sorry to give you something so heavy — like an anchor — but that is all I seem to be able to articulate of my feelings. The rest is something like a void, a glow, a hug that is not there.
Say that the nothing the moon says is what I want to say to you — that hug articulated the only way it can be. Does that make it an auspicious moon, or only an aching one? (Here I am staying up all night again, but with not you to come to. Drop it for now. Look at the moon.) You know “I love you” in a way “that” doesn’t say. Love Colin
Colin Morton was born in Ottawa in 1948. He is a poet and fiction writer and in the 1980s was a member of a poetry performance group that toured Canada. Morton has published more than 10 books of poetry, reviewed books extensively and published essays. His fiction book The Local Cluster (2008) was shortlisted for an Ottawa Book Award in 2009.
BRANDON MARLON TO AN UNNAMED VALENTINE (DECEMBER, 2013)
When I first laid eyes on you, you seemed so elegant (it was your coiffed hair). You reminded me of Mrs. Whittle from elementary school, whose white blouses I admired as a schoolboy.
For you, I ached and burned. Did you hear the crackle of my fire?
All at once, in an instant, I desired for you to let me be your reason why; to hallow me with your embrace, consecrate me with your smile, sanctify me with your touch.
At first disoriented, I soon became disillusioned. After that first week of my wishful imagining, your true colours were vividly displayed, and my blissful hallucinations dissipated like morning dew.
Pardon me; I thought you were someone else.
Post Scriptum: Why weren’t you that person?
Brandon Marlon is a playwright and poet in Ottawa. He studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, the University of Toronto and the University of Victoria. His poetry has been published widely in Canada, the U.S.A., and Israel. Marlon’s two poetry collections are Inspirations of Israel: Poetry for a Land and People (2008) and Judean Dreams (2009). His play, The Bleeding Season, won the Canadian Jewish Playwriting Prize in 2007.
PENN KEMP, 1975
Dear Mentor/Tormentor This One’s for you O Men Tore Tore Men Tore: Men tore My art Not my heart, Pull ease, Pull lease. I imp Lore You too Cease and Desist De siring To Con Core Mon coeur. It’s not For rent For good Nest Ache. Till next we Meet, we part, Yr Penn pal.
Penn Kemp was born in Strathroy, Ont., in 1944. In addition to being a novelist, essayist and poet, she is a sound poet and multimedia performer. She studied at the University of Western Ontario, receiving degrees in English and education. She became the first poet laureate for London, Ont., in 2010. She has published more than 20 books of poetry and released 10 CDs. In 200910 she was writer in residence at the University of Western Ontario.
‘Sorry to give you something so heavy — like an anchor — but that is all I seem to be able to articulate of my feelings. The rest is something like a void, a glow, a hug that is not there,’ Colin Morton in 1972 to Ottawa writer Mary Lee Bragg.
‘For you, I ached and burned. Did you hear the crackle of my fire?’ Ottawa writer Brandon Marlon said in a 2013 letter to an unknown valentine.