Listening to Letters & the Penguin Post Office

January 31, 2015 § 2 Comments

I’ve recently discovered two letter-based podcasts and a PBS program featuring one of the world’s most unique post offices.  I found them all interesting and thought you might, too.

Titanic Letters – In 2012, the BBC recorded a podcast series featuring letters written by some of those involved in the Titanic disaster.  Some are written prior to the ship sinking, others in the chaotic aftermath.  Each is read by a different personality.  They’re very poignant.  [Note: You’ll probably want to start at the bottom of the list so that you’re listening chronologically.]

John Adams Letters from the Front – The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of British WWI solider John Adams are collaborating on the creation of this podcast which shares his experiences in the war as told through the letters he wrote home.  This series began in the fall of 2014 and will continue over the next few years with episodes being released 100 years to the month after the letters were written.  Part of what I love about this project is that these hundred-year-old letters that connected a solider to his family are continuing to bring his family together.

Penguin Post Office – This is a recent episode of the PBS show Nature.  Because it is a nature program, the main focus is on the colony of 3,000 gentoo penguins that take up summer residence next at Antarctica’s Port Lockroy, but the Port Lockroy post office is also featured.  If the brutality of nature makes you squeamish, you may want to skip the Nature episode (spoiler alert: not all the penguins survive) and instead watch the Port Lockroy briefing film to learn a little bit about the world’s southern-most post office, which is a major Antarctic tourist attraction.

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Guest Post: Other People’s Mail

January 10, 2012 § 1 Comment

I was recently telling Lindsay, poet and blog-keeper at Goose Hill, about several books of collected correspondence I’ve read in the past few months.  She responded by telling me about her favorite collections of correspondence.  I enjoyed what she had to say and thought that you would, too, so I asked if she would guest post on Scribbling Glue.  And to my delight, she agreed!

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Other People’s Mail

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Lusby

After I read Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence of Elizabeth Bishop & Robert Lowell, I knew I needed to find an old manual typewriter. The aesthetic of their letter-writing process bleeds into the content of their correspondence. There’s the sound of the keys hitting the ink ribbon and the paper like a piano. The smell of metal and ink. I was smitten.

There is a whole genre of books out there chronicling the correspondence of famous friends, especially literary ones; and I have just begun delving into it. I began reading Words in Air because Elizabeth Bishop is my all-time favorite poet. And reading her letters with fellow-poet Robert Lowell was like getting to eavesdrop on a lifetime of their conversations together. It felt like a privilege.

Then recently, there was another collected correspondence published to which I was also very drawn: Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey & Peter F. Neumeyer. I am also a big fan of writer and illustrator Edward Gorey. And I found my reading of this compilation to be a similar experience to Words in Air: thrilling to be included in this secret world shared by two intimate friends and also comforting in the day-to-dayness of it. I found the same qualities I loved about each of these writers (and artists) that I admired in their published work, but it was tempered by the chores of practical living.

Both of these volumes also included facsimiles of some of the actual hand- and type-written letters, and in the case of Gorey and Neumeyer, some of Gorey’s illustrated envelopes.

But even beyond these bits of ephemera (which I love!), there is something in these books (and others like them) that can’t be found in biographies or even autobiographies of these literary figures I admire. Interaction. Intimacy. These unpolished words were not written for anyone but the other letter-writer to read. It’s the writer (or artist) in his or her natural habitat.

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Lindsay Lusby graduated from Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland with a B.A. in English. Now, she works at her local public library and a nifty new bakery. In her spare time, she writes poetry on her typewriter, sews thingamajigs, drinks tea, dabbles in letterpress printing and bookbinding, browses through used bookstores, and naps with her cats (and sometimes with her dog). Her poems have appeared in The Coachella Review and are forthcoming from Moon Milk Review.  She blogs at Goose Hill.

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