Tag Archives: Letter writing

Letters from Russia / development notes, sketches, drafts

Letters from Russia, mixed-media epistolary literature project, 2004

In 2004, I created a mixed-media creative writing project called “Letters from Russia” which was meant to be a series of well,… *obviously* letters written from Russia from the point of view of a cobbler in Napoleon’s army to his lover in France. All in all an unlikely and complicated conceit conceived as was a way to discuss various topics around love and war.

Appropriately, was written/crafted as part of a program at Evergreen State College called “Poets and Philosophers Discuss Love and War” which was my final “seminar” (at Evergreen, you don’t take courses and classes, rather programs and seminars and independent contracts and other non-traditional interdisciplinary learning contexts). This program involved going to Lake Crescent on Olympic Peninsula with three faculty members with different specialties – philosophy, history and poetry/creative writing – staying in cabins, doing the Evergreen-ubiquitous group projects and assignments of various kinds but also working on an individual big project amidst mediation.

Unsurprisingly, I was keen to do something “big” to finish off my hard won Bachelor of Arts degree which spanned 17 years and four or five colleges/universities depending on how you count them. A “capstone” of a sort. {digression: previously thought a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing was my path and with that would come a big project/thesis or whatever, since that wasn’t going to happen, wanted to do something that felt like similar for personal satisfaction}

So, at the idyllic lakefront surrounding, i diligently worked along on this complicated house of cards – in between long stretches of partying, drinking racks of beer, usual herbs, one guy brought a motorboat and a gun – I mean none of it made sense.

I did a few of the assigned assignments (writing something about explaining peace to a banana slug or other contrived drudgery) while putting this project together in my head. I could imagine the finished product: wanted an “artifact” with tactility and vague sense of authenticity despite it being completely fictional.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is letters-from-russia-dossier-042.jpg
sparks of inspiration and outline

The finished result was series of letters written on different pieces of paper stock from my suitcase stationery stash, compiled to create the feeling that the protagonist “Henri” (all the characters were named after French Canadian hockey players) was with the army, scavenging any kind of paper he could find, and using different sorts of writing materials. Then I added a series of illustrations, paintings, other visual expressions in various medium and styles (and worked in the character of an Italian conscript with his unit who is a painter as an excuse to include these paintings).

let’s write in cursive with inky fountain pens on handmade paper, such authentic-ness

I wrote some test letters (readers may notice original drafts used a different name for the recipient of the letters) to try out some different papers, handwriting styles, pens and to find my rhythm. Once I found my rhythm it all came together very quickly but finding that vibe and materials and to start was a real challenge.

Continue reading Letters from Russia / development notes, sketches, drafts

Writing Postcards & Typing Letters in the Kura studio (with records)

‘with a weird expression on my face as I try to hold up my glasses with my nose’

Writing postcards, putting on stamps, typing letters (with a weird expression on my face as I try to hold up my glasses with my nose), scribbling addresses, stamping inky stamps… and whatnot in historic kura barn studio in provincial Japan with a shaky camera while listening to John K Sampson (of The Weakerthans from Winnipeg) on vinyl.

That’s it, nothing else happens, come hang out if you want.

Still Life: writing letters at Sun Clinic

A sunny patch of grass, all necessary tools, everything is possible

Came across this photo, I suppose there’s a chance it’s elsewhere in this archive but its significant memory for me… ergo:

When we were pregnant, went to the lovely “and clinic” for our usual check-in but, in those early heady days of the “notable public health conundrum virus” this was the first time I was not allowed in to participate due to uncertainty and concern.

Certainly crestfallen so, as I do when feeling blue, I grabbed my postal kit and wrote a postcard or a letter, possibly to you.

These sorts of photos with pens, papers, address book, inky and postal stamps, aerograms, ephemera, postcards etc, all sort of spread around on a table, desk, blanket (or just the flap of a leather satchel purchased in Nepal), I called “postal still life” and yes, I have dozens of examples, 100s possibly.

Dossiers of Kerouac in Kobe (& me in Okayama) to global beats

Finally going to sneak up to Kobe just before the end of the Jack Kerouac exhibit (aug 3/4/5).

This one went to a dude in Scarborough

Was hoping things would be chiller and I would be healthier and could bounce up to Kyoto for a couple of days while generally absent in overseas tourists but it just doesn’t seem to ever lineup… Seems every time I leave the house, I “crash“ again #mecfs #digression

Anyhow, this is a little round up of dossiers I’ve mailed out to various Kerouac/beat enthusiast, collectors, archivists and generally-kind folks so that professor Matt Theado & colleagues work is amplified to other corners of other continents.

This to a collector and architect in Germany

Of course I love it when folks send me “static montage“ snapshots of the dossiers. As you will notice, along with the Jack Kerouac stuff, also added in different combinations Of my paintings, postcards, various snapshots, occasional goat farm brochures or museum catalogs and as usual, resplendent with stamps, both inky and postal.

Seen here is last year is canceled catalog and this year‘s phoenix

Shared here in slightly obstificated versions to pretend I’m protecting anyone’s privacy or whatever I don’t know.

Look at that, he already has it framed next to some other lovely pieces

If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say “Kerouac in Kobe“ or variations thereof, the short version is: this year, like everything else, it’s complicated ?

Here is a stash which went to a painter in eastern USA (included some postcards of paintings)

Was scheduled for last year with the original s/croll and a bunch of workshops (including mine) and ancillary exhibits but, due to quarantine etc., the “keeper of the scroll” (cool job!) couldn’t come… so this year it’s a painstakingly reproduced digital version of the scroll + there was a symposium a couple of weeks back and a nice collection of books and artifacts and typewriters in display.

Bringing it all back home to the goat farm as a reminder that there’s more information elsewhere in this archive

Loads more about elsewhere in this archive >> worth checking it out and giving them some support if you’re in the area. Runs until August 8.

Anyhow, today is father-in-law‘s birthday and think I’m gonna wear my new Fluevog shoes in celebration and we’ll eat curry & new secret hideout. Big moves all around. Ha ha

Oh and that painter I mentioned above also received one of my paintings from a numbered print run of “Gravelly Beach no. 4, Sakura“ I’ve now shared around the world

Background notes about Letters from Russia for “Write Now! The Art & Action of Letter Writing “

letters from russia notes for rainzine
Letters from Russia Dossier w/backstory for @rainzine – made with old-timey Underwood typewriter & Thai mulberry paper

In prep for a chat on “Write Now! The Art & Action of Letter Writing w/ DJ Snail Mail” on Free Radio Santa Cruz’s about my Letters from Russia project, i jotted down some a bit of backstory which i’m posting here lest i misplace and to share with others with interest.  So, … here ya go :

I started writing LfR while at an Evergreen College week long course “Poets and Philosophers Discuss Love and War” at Lake Crescent, WA. I had prepared with much reading about the historical context so i could make the story accurate. I then charted out the philosophical topics to address during Herni’s political transformation and personal journey.

I wrote each letter separately, handwritten on different papers and different writing instruments and only taking a piece or two to keep the letters brief and intense. Each letter was written while out on a walk/hike (so i could be in character a bit i suppose) and i didn’t edit from the original letters at all.

I also sketched/painted that summer to fill out the story and help me visualize his world and support the letters by replacing some visual narrative – and finally bound the original letters and paintings in a wood/hemp book (a few are at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/uncleweed/tags/lettersfromrussia/).

I lived overseas (Japan, Micronesia) quite a bit pre-Internet so am an enthusiast of printed letters and papercraft (I collect paper ephemera from trips).

I’d very much like to find someone with some deeper historical knowledge to give a read to see if there are glaring historical
inaccuracies – though i am sure on the dates and locations – before distributing the piece more broadly.