Monday, April 21, 2014

OLD LETTERS IN THE ATTIC

Biro Portraits on Antique envelopes by Mark Powell. See interview here

MY GRANDMOTHER'S LOVE LETTERS by Hart Crane

There are no stars tonight
But those of memory.
Yet how much room for memory there is
In the loose girdle of soft rain.

There is even room enough
For the letters of my mother's mother,
Elizabeth,
That have been pressed so long
Into a corner of the roof
That they are brown and soft,
And liable to melt as snow.

Over the greatness of such space
Steps must be gentle.
It is all hung by an invisible white hair.
It trembles as birch limbs webbing the air.

And I ask myself:

"Are your fingers long enough to play
Old keys that are but echoes:
Is the silence strong enough
To carry back the music to its source
And back to you again
As though to her?"

Yet I would lead my grandmother by the hand
Through much of what she would not understand;
And so I stumble. And the rain continues on the roof
With such a sound of gently pitying laughter.


See more portraits on Mark Powell's Flickr photo stream here.

"I was given an envelope that was sent from the front line in World War 1. It captivated me that this may have been the last thing ever written by this soldier. I find the envelopes with stamp collectors and the cost depends on the stamp which of course doesn't interest me. I like the history and scars of travel with the envelope." -  Mark Powell


Michael Douglas Jones


Variation on a theme of letters from Poland by Beata Wehr


"In her series Field Notes, photographs blend the domesticity of home with the joy of wilderness, the natural world. The paper houses are built from letters, postcards and envelopes saved through the decades in old shoeboxes by her grandparents and discovered in their attic a few years ago. The images are printed on old envelopes collected from around the world; artifacts from the last centuries." - Penopticon Gallery

Rachel Phillips unique wet transfer pigment prints on vintage envelopes. 

 Joanne Teasdale (images fused on glass, steel wire, steel plate). See website here

Joanne Teasdale


Letter from Eugene Delacroix to his paint dealer.

....and the piece de resistance 
the illustrated love letters of Henry Moore to his mistress


 Love letters from Henry Moore to his mistress. 

"I also delight in the way a shy restrained 
letter can reveal the writer's feelings thanks
to one word he or she couldn't hold back, 
flying off like a reckless butterfly, landing -- 
it knows the exact spot -- in the corner of 
the reader's mouth, as a quivering smile, 
trembling at the premonition of a secret 
love that has in fact been avowed." 

-- Agnes Desarthe, from Chez Moi


 The Gorgeous Nothings is an art book as much as a poetry book, featuring full-color facsimiles of 52 of Emily Dickinson's envelope poems.  

In this short life
that only lasts an hour
merely
How much  -- How
little -- is 
within our
power.

- Emily Dickinson


58 comments:

  1. how beautiful, In this age of everything digital and intangible something written from the heart to savor and treasure seems even more important to save and hold on to for now and the future.

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    1. I'm kicking myself for throwing out a big bundle of yellowing letters from my boarding school days.

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  2. These are exquisite, there is no other word to describe them. Thank you so much for giving me such a pleasurable few minutes.

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    1. Weaver I think you will love Mark Powell's Flickr photo stream...
      https://www.flickr.com/photos/markpowellart/sets/72157629599486798/

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  3. Yes, beautiful... I got some quite breathtaking old letters + lists the other day, they were in a bundle of paper ephemera I bought - amazing what an aura handwriting can have, even on a ledger page - what a difference to today's sloppiness...

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    1. I find the more I type the less comfortable my hands are when writing on paper. It's such a pity. I need to make a concerted effort to write by hand.

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  4. I think this is one of my favorite posts ever - these are AMAZING!

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    1. Really Heather?! I'm so glad this post appealed to you.

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  5. there is something so tantalizing to me in the mix of images and words. you have found us some amazing examples here, the faces on old letters, the houses made of postal bits. and the words of Agnes Desarthe: delicious. thanks for the inspiration. I always leave here with a smile on my face.

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    1. :-) and I always leave your blog knowing that my brain has been exercised. Your posts offer much food for thought.

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  6. Oh, reviving old envelopes, that keep memories of past lives and destinies - how interesting! Weaving old and new emotions - this is fantastic! These artists's emotions can be felt in every single piece of work... Mark Powell's portraits are so impressive!! Thank you, Robyn!

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    1. I think Mark Powell's portraits are all the more magical on old envelopes. Have a look at his Flickr photo stream.

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  7. Robyn, I love this post, old and decaying books and letters are what I am obsessed with now, I have friends all over the world looking for things I can use in my collage.
    I would love to find a pile of old love letters tied up with a bow, what a dream that would be. xoxo

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    1. I threw out a thick bundle of love letters from my teens, but now I wish I had kept them so that my daughter can discover them one day.

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  8. What a beautiful post, Robyn. I've learned to cherish old envelopes, too, though perhaps some of today's envelopes will be collected, especially the handwritten ones which have become rare in my own mailbox. We email and text rather than write. I saw a painting exhibit recently where the artist had collaged envelopes, covering the canvas with opened envelopes, and then composed her painting on top, mostly obscuring the envelopes except for the texture they added.

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    1. I'm picturing the envelope textured canvases. It must have been an interesting exhibition.

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  9. I still write letters. Sometimes the envelopes are as important as the letter it holds. Fun post.

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    1. I actually don't remember when I wrote a letter last but I do remember it felt awkward. My hands are out of practice.

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  10. Lovely post, I love old letters, I have my parents, and many of mine.

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    1. I still have an old box of my mother's to go through and I'm hoping to discover a bundle of hand written letters.

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  11. you may be interested in the "gorgeous nothings" a rather lovely book with images of the notes and poems Emily Dickinson wrote on scraps of old envelopes

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    1. Very interested! Thanks India, I googled and added a gorgeous nothing to the post.

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    3. A big "thank you!" from me, too! I'll go to check about the book. I love Emily Dickinson's poetry so much!

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    4. I love the idea of hand written notes on paper scraps. I used to have piles of penciled quotations on anything that was at hand at the time.

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    5. Do you keep them? Or can you find them? It will be like a journey to yourself...

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    6. I copied them all into a quote journal and then threw away the scraps. Now I wish I put the scraps into the journal.

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    7. Maybe the next ones... When/if you feel again that necessity of expressing. :)

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  12. oooo I love these beauties! thanks for sharing them xx

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  13. thank you for sharing the work of these artists, poets. I have been obsessed lately with anything hand written, old envelopes and stamps. I have my grandmothers ledgers and recipes, some notes from my mother and her recipes. The other day I was out for a ride on my scooter and saw several handwritten notes just laying on the ground. I wish I had picked them up now. Love to find notes in books etc.. for me they are precious and an exercise in using my imagination.

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    1. Yes, I keep thinking back to the notes, recipes and letters I should have kept too.

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  14. stunning! loved each piece in this post- feeling so inspired!

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  15. old letters and stamps - some of my favorite art materials. It's so inspiring to see all these letter-based works, Robyn! Thanks for gathering them here.

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    1. I regret throwing out all my old letters but the one thing I have kept is my stamp collection from boarding school days.

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  16. Extraordinary personal glimpses...so beautiful

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  17. Hi R - there is such mystery that surrounds old and yellowed envelopes - even if there is not a story we are sure to create one. B

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  18. We do love a good story and it's very easy to create one around old letters.

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  19. They're all wonderful. Getting such a special letter is getting some special time someone has made for you..

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    1. "special time someone has made for you" .... That's a lovely thought Eric.

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  20. so poignant & beautiful Robyn, as I go through the box of old photos and letters from a friend who just passed away yesterday ...

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    1. A sad time for you Mo and a time to appreciate those special letters.

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  21. Perhaps these are even more meaningful now as we wonder how much of this kind of thing will be available for our descendants to pore over... we so rarely communicate via paper these days...

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    1. There are quite a few things our descendants are going to miss out on. Letters, books, hand stitched quilts ....

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  22. Makes me want to sit w my grandmother and hear her voice tell Her stories over a glass.

    One little pile of letters stuck away in the eves seems to me a political symbol women have hopefully broken open, to speak a long passionate life

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    1. Many a time I've wished to have one more chat with each of my grandmothers

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  23. Oh Robyn I was swooning from the beginning all the way through - now I just want to go make some beautiful envelopes!

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    1. .... and your envelopes are indeed beautiful!

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  24. There are some wonderful creative mail art featured here... as one who participates in an envelope exchange, I am so happy to see such creative different sort of mail art.. and the poems are so lovely.

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    1. Thanks Donna, I had fun bringing it all together.

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  25. Loved this post!!! WOW. I am old fashioned, since I still write letters to a few select people. I love writing letters. It's so much better, so much more personal than email could ever hope to be. Thank you for this beautiful post, Robyn. xo

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  26. Dear Robyn. This is a magical post, thoughts and words hidden inside of letters. I love it all.
    Happy May to you!
    roxanne

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  27. I know you've had heaps of comments on this post, but I've been back several times to browse and ponder it and to take new thoughts and ideas away with me to ponder some more. It truly is a beautiful collection of material that resonates so much with me. Thanks. Ax

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  28. Beautiful poem, and intriguing letter houses. A lovely theme, slows, bittersweet memory.

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