Logo weiterlesen.de
Where the Nights Are Twice as Long


One hundred and thirty poets.

Hundreds of letters and epistolary poems.

An unforgettable journey into the long night of love.


“Here is a wild map, from incandescent sparks to considered glow, of love’s landscape in Canadian poetry. David Eso and Jeanette Lynes have put together something outside the ordinary.”

— Daphne Marlatt


“This is a Canada we haven’t seen before. Romantic, intimate, a valentine shaped like a maple leaf designed for lovers of Canadian literature and its oh-so-human practitioners.”

— Lorna Crozier


“an amayzing galaktik compilaysyun  all brillyant poets all brillyant passyuns   evree nuans  evree change  n trope  uv all th loves   ium sew happee 2 b in ths byond brillyant book.”

— bill bissett




This e-book contains poetry. Before the invention of writing and books, and long before the harnessing of electricity, poetry roamed the earth. Poetry adapted to the book and welcomed the electric light (with which it could be read longer hours). Poetry is still uneasy about the recent invention of the e-book and does not always respond well to the dynamic environment an e-book reader offers.


To set your poetry at ease, and to ensure the best possible reading experience, we recommend the following settings for your e-book reader:

  • Different typefaces (fonts) can change the length of lines and the relationships between characters on the rendered page. If you can change the typeface on your reading device, choose one that you find pleasing to the eye, but we recommend the following for the best results: for Apple iPad (iBooks), use Original or Charter; for Kobo devices or apps, use the Publisher Default, Amasis, or Baskerville; for Kindle devices or apps, use Baskerville, if it is available.
  • Set the font size as small as you can comfortably read; ideally it will be one of the 3 or 4 smallest font sizes on most apps and devices.
  • Use portrait (vertical) mode.
  • Use the narrowest line spacing and the widest margins available.
  • If you can adjust the text alignment, use the publisher default or left justification.
  • If you use a Kobo device or tablet app, turn “Kobo Styling” off.

You will find the ideal settings for your device if you experiment on a poem with long lines and observe where the lines break and the visual shape of the poem starts to change as the text enlarges. If you follow these general guidelines, you should find poems presented as the poets meant them to be read.


Enjoy your new e-book.

Goose Lane Editions






Preface by David Eso

Introduction by Jeanette Lynes



No Road Back to the Old Life

Poets in their Teens and Twenties

Malcolm Lowry to Carol Brown

Gwendolyn MacEwen to Milton Acorn

Robert Kroetsch to Martann ———

Gwendolyn MacEwen to Milton Acorn

A.M. Klein to Bessie Kozlov

Kai Cheng Thom to ———

Chris Masson to “Moana”

A.J.M. Smith, What Strange Enchantment

Priscila Uppal to Christopher Doda

C. Isa Lausas and Tyson John Atkings

Archibald Lampman to Maud Emma Playter

Colin Morton to Mary Lee Bragg

Jack Garton to Jennifer Hammer

John Barton, Sixth Letter in Autumn

Robert Priest, Come to Me

Rhonda Batchelor to Charles Lillard

Raymond Souster, The Nest

Christopher Doda to Priscila Uppal

Shannon Webb-Campbell to ———

Bliss Carman to Maude Mosher

Ross Priddle to Shannon Kastor

Phyllis Webb, And in Our Time

P.K. Page to F.R. Scott

Dorothy Livesay to Duncan Macnair

Raymond Knister to Myrtle Gamble

E. Pauline Johnson, Close By

Myna Wallin to Richard ———

Robert Service to Constance MacLean

Roy Kiyooka to Monica Dealtry Barker

John Newlove to Susan Newlove



A Minute is Too Long

Poets in their Thirties

Brian Fawcett to Sharon Thesen

Robert Kroetsch to Jane Lewis

Tanya Evanson to the Beloved

Malcolm Lowry to Margerie Bonner

Penn Kemp, Dear Mentor/Tormentor.

Gregory Betts to Lisa Frith

Robert Service to Constance MacLean

Fraser Sutherland, Here

Lindsay Zier-Vogel to Amelia Earhart

Frank Davey, The Tower

Stephen Pender to ———

David Helwig to Judy Yeo

Christian Bök, Vowels

Robert Service to Constance McLean

Charles Lillard, Roughing the Words

Ronna Bloom to Daniel Molloy

Brandon Marlon to ———

Richard Harrison to Lisa ———

Evelyn Lau, I Love You

Nathan Dueck to Sharon ———

Peter Trower to Jill Wright

Ivan E. Coyote to ———

Susan Musgrave and Stephen Reid

Shane Neilson to Janet Sunohara-Neilson

Andrew Suknaski, The Last Letter

Roo Borson, You Leave the City . . .

Derek Beaulieu to Kristen Ingram

Steve McCaffery, K as in Sleep

Alden Nowlan to Claudine Nowlan

Kim Maltman, Installation #67

Louis Riel to Marguerite Riel

Pearl Luke to Robert Hilles

Pearl Luke, What god hears in the privacy of our bedroom

bill bissett, from Pomes for Yoshi

Rocco de Giacomo, I Need You to Know

Miriam Waddington to Allan Donaldson

John Newlove to Susan Newlove

Pat Lowther, The Face

Marjorie Pickthall, Going Home

Judith Fitzgerald, Harmony of Moonlight



From the Bottom of My Spongiform Heart

Poets in their Forties

Vivian Hansen to Bruce ———

Jane Eaton Hamilton to Joy Masuhara

Louis Riel to Marguerite Riel

rob mclennan, Goldfish: studies in fine thread

Milton Acorn to Gwendolyn MacEwen

Malcolm Lowry to Margerie Bonner Lowry

Vivian Hansen to Angus ———

Louise Bak, Restlessness

Jane Eaton Hamilton to Joy Masuhara

Fred Cogswell, Lost Dimension

Miriam Waddington to Allan Donaldson

Roy Kiyooka to Monica Dealtry Barker

Jane Eaton Hamilton to Joy Masuhara

Charles G.D. Roberts to Mary Fanton

Jeevan Bhagwat to Anna ———

Miriam Waddington to Allan Donaldson

Roy Kiyooka to Monica Dealtry Barker

Milton Acorn to Gwendolyn MacEwen

Jane Eaton Hamilton to Joy Masuhara

Robin Skelton, The language of love is impossible

Dennis Lee, Coming Becomes You

Ian Ferrier, Exile’s Letter

Jeevan Bhagwat to Anna ———

George Elliott Clarke, À Geeta

Christine Lowther to ———

Steven Heighton, Breathe like this

Malcolm Lowry to Margerie Bonner Lowry

Robert Hilles to Pearl Luke

Fern G.Z. Carr to Al Carr (on his 60th birthday), Dear Al

Howard White, The Made Bed

Patrick Lane, Small Love Song

Weyman Chan, Monologues and their Instruments of Torture

R.C. Weslowski, It’s Good to Be Here

Frederick Philip Grove to Catherine Grove

Robert Hilles to Pearl Luke

Robert Hilles, Beloved

Elizabeth Rainer and Michael Blouin

Betsy Warland and Daphne Marlatt



Hiring Omniscient Narrators

Poets in their Fifties

Brian Fawcett to Sharon Thesen

Roy Kiyooka to Daphne Marlatt

Renée Sarojini Saklikar, Aftermath

Di Brandt, Song for a divorce

Mark Sinnett, Art History

Jennifer Londry to ———

William Wilfred Campbell to Mary DeBelle

John Glassco to Elma Koolmer

Bliss Carman to Gladys Baldwin

Ken Norris, Funny Valentine

Irving Layton to Aviva Layton

Elizabeth Brewster, Chill

Bliss Carman to Gladys Baldwin

Irving Layton to Aviva Layton

Irving Layton, Mystery

Barry Dempster, Come Live with Me

Richard Harrison to Lisa ———

Ronald Everson, Cold Weather Love

Heather Haley to John ———

John ———, His Reply to Her Lawyer

Susan Musgrave to Stephen Reid

Gerald Hill to K.

Roy Kiyooka to Daphne Marlatt

David Bateman, letter to a former lover from a young drag queen on the threshold of manhood

Bruce Whiteman to Kelly M.

Katherine Lawrence to Randy Burton

Jane Eaton Hamilton and Julia Balén



I Promise Not to Philosophize

Poets in their Sixties, Seventies, and Beyond

Susan Musgrave to Stephen Reid

Bliss Carman to Kate Eastman

Bill Howell, Local Subtext

Thomas Dilworth, Neither Apple Trees

Lorna Crozier, Getting Used to It

Lillian Allen to Jay

Anne Szumigalski, Desire

James Deahl to Norma West Linder

Charles G.D. Roberts to Constance Davies Woodrow

Irving Layton to Sandra Beaudin

Steven Ross Smith, Rush: Coral Bracho

Bliss Carman to Margaret Lawrence

Dave Margoshes, Polar exploration

Earle Birney to Esther Birney

Louis Dudek, Love Words

Henry Rappaport, Make Dead

Duncan Campbell Scott to Miss Elise Aylen

Elizabeth Greene, Per Aspera ad Astra

Earle Birney to Esther Birney

Irving Layton to Harriet Bernstein

Linda Rogers, Anniversary Letter to the Passerine Who

Richard Outram, Late Love Poem

Earle Birney to Wailan Low

Leonard Cohen, The Mist of Pornography

Anne Marriott, July 9

Earle Birney to Wailan Low

Joe Rosenblatt, Phantom Dog

George Bowering, from Knot of Light

Douglas LePan, Flames, at the Beginning

Al Purdy, To —

Charles G.D. Roberts to Joan Montgomery

George Woodcock, À Ma Belle Laide


Index of Poets and Correspondents


Contributors and Credits






“love is an abbreviashun uv reality” — bill bissett

In the spring of 2010, five thousand kilometres from home, I waited out a day-long Atlantic rain in the Bathurst Public Library. I came across “Desire in Poetry” by Michael Brian Oliver in the Fiddlehead’s fiftieth anniversary issue. “Love poetry,” Oliver writes, “is not personal; it repeats a cosmic dialogue.” Travelling alone through northern New Brunswick, my understanding of love shifted.

That day, I wrote to an old flame and asked if she still had the last letter I had sent, years earlier. She replied (instantly, O Internet!) that the letter was indeed retrievable. But why did I want a copy? Deleting as I typed, I gave up my attempt to articulate my new understanding of love and my sudden nostalgia for the woman who had inspired my first experiences of love and heartache. Instead, I told her that an editor I knew was compiling a collection of love letters by Canadian poets. A white lie, a poetic truth.

The trunk which held my letter would have to be sent from her grandparents’ home in India to England, and she would then forward my letter on to me. It took six months to arrive, but when it did, I did not open the envelope. Instead, I set about the project I had intended as alibi.

The dialogue of love follows an irregular chronology. The letters and letter-poems in Where the Nights Are Twice as Long follow not an historic timeline but are presented according to the poets’ ages at their times of writing. We begin with novice lovers: Malcolm Lowry, Gwendolyn MacEwen, and Robert Kroetsch at sixteen, nineteen, and twenty respectively. A single lifeline set in motion, we follow an amalgam of the Poet, year by year, through life’s slow process of maturation. Telegram and text, e-mail and handwritten letter collide as the years, decades, and centuries shuffle according to our poets’ biographical progression. We end with figures in their sixties, seventies, and eighties (including Susan Musgrave, Leonard Cohen, and Al Purdy) reflecting on loves lost or rediscovered. The compilation reads as if these elder figures had gained their wisdom by enduring the joys and strife of those poets who occupy the earlier sections — or as if those still tangled in their heart’s drama had not read closely enough. Our collection, then, contains not only letters of courtship but representations of the endless variety of romance: remembered love, enduring love, unrequited love, unwanted love, erotic love, violent love, regretful love; odes and lyric ecstasies, tirades and tantrums, pastoral comforts and urban horrors, all delivered with the vibrant erudition of Canada’s finest poets.

If relationships and love are explored in depth in this volume, many other themes dart in and out of the periphery. Historical events, personal philosophies, daily life, geography, and the literary landscape all seep into the letters gathered here. Our national character, above all, rises to the surface — in distance, winter, and our understated trench humour.

Where the Nights Are Twice as Long cannot reproduce many of the charms of typed or handwritten letters — rips and stains, corrections and stamps. As Duncan Campbell Scott wrote in 1930, “one charm of a written letter is the difficulty of reading it.” The collection does, however, preserve the poets’ fraught relationships with the laws of grammar, though errors in spelling and punctuation have been silently corrected where deemed a product of haste rather than a matter of style. In most cases, diacritical and typographical marks, as well as spacing and indentation, have been standardized for readability.

The editors have resisted the temptation to offer introductions to the relationships represented here. Rather, the letters speak for themselves, gestures to larger realities and to the Letter as literary form. Where the Nights Are Twice as Long has brought Jeanette Lynes and me, at times, closer to the lives of poets and their families than anticipated. In a mercifully small number of instances, individuals have been unsettled by our research. In at least one case, however, our project has led to the reunion of a separated couple. Permission to reprint many personally revealing letters discovered in the course of our research was not granted; in response to our requests for romantic epistles from our nation’s living poets, we received at least as many refusals as submissions. Poets most commonly declined by stating that our project defied their (sensible) sensibilities; and secondly, by claiming to have no copies of such items available. Only one poet claimed to have “never been in love.” As in any anthology, difficult lines had to be drawn. Though we included Lindsay Zier-Vogel’s pilgrimage letters to Amelia Earhart, excellent letters have been omitted — Ivan E. Coyote’s letter to a breast lost to an operation, or David McGimpsey’s correspondence with Doritos México, a product he Truly Loves.

In drawing on the published correspondence of Lowry, Glassco, Layton, Carman, Roberts, Grove, and Kiyooka, the present volume repeats redactions enacted by editors of those collections. Redacted passages in these and other correspondence are identified with […], while ellipses not contained within brackets appear in the original letters. In the interest of protecting privacy and copyrights, as well as with our readers’ patience in mind, passages from certain correspondences have been excised (Kiyooka, Lowry, MacEwen, Waddington, Garton, Hansen, Webb-Campbell, Haley, Livesay, and Carman).

The editors took care to reach out to various poetic camps, from spoken word to conceptual literature. Some figures also (or better) known for vocations other than poetry appear in this collection: Louis Riel as revolutionary leader, Duncan Campbell Scott as deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs, George Woodcock as scholar, Roy Kiyooka as visual artist, and F.P. Grove, Malcolm Lowry, and Brian Fawcett as prose writers. While the representation favours writers with a notable or iconic national presence, we have also included younger poets. Female poets seem more reluctant to publicize private correspondence than their male counterparts and also suffer underrepresentation in collections of correspondence, both published and archived. Epistolary love poems were originally admitted into the collection to correct the resultant gender inequality. However, as the work continued, we came to see these verses undeniably as letters. Aspects of form illuminated by the study of poets writing variously in epistolary prose and poetry contribute greatly to this anthology and especially to its usefulness in classrooms. Finally, the editors’ distance from French poetry in Canada results in a dearth of these poets (with the exception of Riel’s letters, which have been translated for inclusion here). We must leave it to some other intrepid editor to present a corresponding anthology that focuses on our French-language poets.

We thank the poets and their family members, executors, agents, and publishers who granted us permission or facilitated rights to the material gathered in this collection. Thanks also to the special collections and archival staff who assisted us in our search at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the University of Calgary, the University of Manitoba, Queen’s University, McMaster University, and the National Archives of Canada. Our gratitude must be expressed to those who assisted with deciphering difficult handwriting: Colette Colligan for Archibald Lampman, Jennifer Bobrovitz for D.C. Scott, Barbara Eso for Robert Service, and Donna Kynaston for Dorothy Livesay and William Wilfred Campbell. As well, we extend our appreciation to Irving Layton and John Robert Colombo for inspiring our title. My personal thanks to Jeanette Lynes for her courage, hospitality, and verve. Lastly, thanks to Daphne Marlatt, Linda Rogers, Heather Haley, Weyman Chan, and Judith Fitzgerald for their support. The camaraderie of our lively correspondences kept me inspired at times when the enormity of this project caused my enthusiasm to falter. In fact, NightsAreTwiceAsLong@gmail.com contains its own fascinating archive of the letters of Canadian poets, correspondence that we hope will continue to grow.



Calgary, Alberta, October 2014




“It surely is a mystery how a letter, mere scrawled words, can elicit profound sympathies and inexhaustibly bind two people together.”

— Roy Kiyooka to Monica Dealtry Barker, 1955

“Poets need to write love letters,” wrote one of Bliss Carman’s correspondents in 1927. This observation captures much about this volume: the sheer compulsive urgency of writers to express their desire, hope, fear, and disappointment through the materials of their art — words. Given that this volume spans over a century of romantic correspondence, these expressions take a variety of forms, tracking changes in the technologies of epistolary discourse, and in the material conditions of writing letters. Some of us remember a time before e-mail, as do, or would, many of these poets. If twenty-first-century technology facilitates accelerated connection and the potential for nearly instantaneous response, as reflected in the text-message exchanges reproduced in these pages (Lausas–Atkings and others) or the e-mail exchanges between James Deahl and Norma West Linder, pre-digital-era correspondence often felt like, as Charles G.D. Roberts puts it, “an arrow shot into the void.” The letters sent through traditional post, subject to the vicissitudes of mail delivery, often occupy a skewed, discontinuous kind of world where two or even three letters might arrive on the same day after a prolonged gap — famine or feast. As P.K. Page laments in a 1944 letter to F.R. Scott, “Letters seem to take centuries to go to and from.” There is a strong sense of ritual here, too, in the posting of letters, down to an erotics of stamp-licking (Musgrave). Irving Layton tells Sandra Beaudin, in 1979, “Red ink is so sexy.” The material conditions of letter-writing — type of paper, colour of ink, the walk to the post box, the licking of the stamp — is front and centre until the onset of digital technology in the 1990s. Even then, the keyboard remains foregrounded as a medium, as reflected in Gregory Betts’s keyboarding rampage-on-repeat — a frenetic technology for frenetic emotions. Sometimes the medium is more than the message, bringing comfort in and of itself, as John Newlove tells Susan Newlove: “Just typing to talk to you.” Among the most poignant moments in this collection is Louis Riel having to end a letter to his wife because he has used up the sheet of paper allotted to him in prison.

We typically think of love letters as intensely private documents, the baring of one soul to another. To be sure, an epistle of such a personal nature is a document of vulnerability. Yet because the correspondents in this volume are writers, their letters are also texts, literary artifacts that often signal their own awareness as such, that critique their own styles and reveal a sense of their status as dramatic performances — for surely love and all its iterations, including anti-love, is nothing if not a dramatic performance. The writers herein are sometimes brutal self-editors, as when Gwendolyn MacEwen refers slightingly to her own “insane little letter,” which, when she “read[s] it over [is] tempted to throw [her] career in writing out the window entirely and become a missionary instead.” Bliss Carman accuses Gladys Baldwin of sabotaging his ability to write, in his postscript: “These lines are not good at all. I cannot write. I can only love you.” In other words, these letters and epistolary poems are dramatizations with often, as Lowry also writes, a “touch of bathos.” Often documenting their own missteps, flaws, violations of prohibitions and proprieties — “But I forgot: I must not call you that,” writes Archibald Lampman — the authors of these letters adopt various personae to negotiate the flux of their relationships during different stages of their lives. In the arena of love, which Ivan E. Coyote quite rightly calls “a tricky bastard,” age doesn’t necessarily equal wisdom.

Not surprisingly, these poets are inventive in their romantic expression, using, in addition to more traditional modes of letters sent in sealed envelopes through the post, visual poems (Beaulieu), musical notations (Rogers), and other graphic elements. Alden Nowlan’s self-portrait doodle drawn in his love letter to Claudine Nowlan is a standout. Letters are written on “scraps of paper” (Garton), exam booklets (Priddle), hotel stationery. Some of these exchanges remind us that digital communication is not the panacea it’s sometimes billed as — the correspondence between Jane Eaton Hamilton and Julia Balén, reproduced from an on-line dating site, for example, reveals, albeit often through humour, the shyness, vulnerability, and fear of rejection that is part of meeting a potential lover. Sometimes the letters are hallucinations, dream-like fantasies, speculative narratives, such as Lindsay Zier-Vogel’s letters to Amelia Earhart — dabblings in theosophy, spirituality.

While at times these letters reflect a grounded, meditative mood, they are more often imbued with an essential restlessness, a pacing-the-floor manic energy. Not surprisingly, distance is a key trope, as is travel. Our poets write from trains, buses, ocean steamers, hotel rooms, hospitals, prisons. They write from the road, from home, from landscapes relived through memory, from dreamscapes, from the tops of mountains. The reader will find in these letters a full gamut of emotion ranging from eloquence to rancour, from adoring ode to scathing tirade, flights of lyric ecstasy, tantrums, testimonies of hope, renewal and healing (Barton); a poetics of absolution (Heighton) but also despair, hatred, anger (Acorn, Layton, and Service, among others); gratitude, remorse, hung-over-ness, and drug-induced expansiveness (Trower). Drama, melodrama. The cerebral. The courtly. The carnal. The mystical. Apologies, pleas for forgiveness, for second chances, third chances. Stories. Anecdotes. Jokes. Dirty talk. Brief goodbyes. Long goodbyes. A strong penchant for postscripts, which suggests the difficulty of signing off. Serial epistles set aside and resumed over a course of days. The reader will also find politics — socialism, feminism. Anti-establishment indignity over pot laws and societal taboos. Critiques of patriarchy, of oppressive regimes always too ready to incarcerate. George Elliott Clarke’s piece explores the decolonizing agency of love.

These letters often exude a sense of occasion, marking anniversaries, birthdays, Valentine’s Day (Norris and others). The act of composition often constitutes its own occasion. Sometimes our poets revel in a sense of play, particularly in salutary pet names such as “My dear Atom,” “Dearest Pussypants,” “Lambie-pie,” “Dearest Duck.” As dramatic personae, the poet lovers in this volume construct themselves and their beloveds variously as muse, teacher, mentor, cruel torturer, repentant sinner, prodigal, literary collaborator (Warland–Marlatt) and, not least, the lover-as-clown. The anguish and angst of love notwithstanding, humour is present in these letters. Against a quintessentially Canadian winter backdrop of minus twenty-eight, Ross Priddle writes: “Hades, I had Chinese food and chocolate cookies (out of a metal box) for breakfast and then danced Corybantically to OAO by the Golden Palominos (with John Zorn plying duck calls). I think I am suffering from Tartanism. I needed to sweat (I lied when I said I only liked to sweat for money) and it was too damned cold to step outside.” Jane Eaton Hamilton writes to Julia Balén, on an on-line dating site: “I…have mucked around with dating but am not really attuned to it, being, you know, old and flabby of body and brain (see above, sitting in chair as the fit jog past), and seem to very quickly make a botch of it. It is not really helpful to spend a date thinking: I could be gardening.” The humour in these letters is often enough of a self-deprecating cast, as if the poet-lover were aware of her or his clownishness or, at times, of the essential absurdity of her or his plight and the cosmos in general.

William Blake’s proposition that “without contraries is no progression” is germane to romantic correspondence, for often enough in the trajectories of relationships mapped, across time, in these pages, desire is shadowed by doubt, love by hate. Extremes, oppositions, and contrary states are frequent motifs in these letters. Documentary details like the price of wheat (Grove) and a day spent hauling manure (Knister) are set against the heart’s longings. The letters in this volume delineate love as a humanizing force, as well as love as a dehumanizing force. Christine Lowther writes “We move: toward and away. Burning and consumed.” The lover as muse but also anti-muse. Irving Layton writes to Harriet Bernstein that the poems he had written for her, “poems of great affection and tenderness,” have turned into “poems of hate and despair.” Some poets examine the aftermath of love, its wreckage, what gets left behind. Wilted flowers. Wigs on bathroom floors. “Aftermath is a place” writes Renée Sarojini Saklikar. A notable example, among many, of this after-place is the postscript to the poem, “letter to a former lover from a young drag queen on the threshold of manhood”:


p.s. could you send me those encrusted pumps

the ones with eight inch heels and zirconed ankle straps

that gave me all the hope you mocked, adored


I think I left them on the kitchen floor

Those lush imported tiles and the harsh synthetic

colours of those gorgeous cupboard drawers.


The signifiers of romance are at times embraced and at other times turned on their heads, into anti-romance — for example, Weyman Chan’s deconstruction of the supreme love signifier, roses “red as bald assholes.”

Along with these deconstructed turns, readers will find many of the traditional devices of love in these pages: the lover as one who suffers acute agonies (the old courtly love tradition), who cannot sleep or eat, who would sacrifice life and limb — driving over icy highways in northern British Columbia, to cite only one example — to see the beloved. John Newlove documents, in his letters to Susan Newlove, a pain caused by separation that is almost unbearable. Robert Service’s letters plumb the depths of melodrama in their expressions of love’s attendant suffering. bill bissett captures the destructive aspect of love and the need to recover as well as anyone: “ium kinduv / fukd up again but iul / keep on trucking / I will.”

In keeping with their poetic vocations, the writers in this volume mobilize their literary skills, often creating vivid scenes and sensory landscapes in their letters and epistolary poems, and tapping into figurative language, imagery, and other literary devices to express their feelings; astronomy is a popular topos — comets, moons, stars — along with food, fire, mirrors, glass, and textiles/clothing/shoes. Ronna Bloom writes: “I wanted you like a rug.” Heather Haley goes for broke — at least in my woman’s opinion — when she tells her lover “you can wear my Fluevogs.” That’s intense. “Love is depicted as strawberry cheesecake, also as “the tiniest of briskets, and hardest to view, / mangle and chew, and absorb in lechery’s saliva” (Rosenblatt, “Phantom Dog”). Bliss Carman conceptualizes romance’s vertigo as a natural hazard: “A dangerous whirlpool, which ought to be marked ‘Danger!’ but isn’t.” Pathetic fallacy appears in more than one letter, the alignment of climate and weather with the poet-lover’s mood; as Pearl Luke puts it, “it’s a cold, grey day, greyer because you’re not here.” A recurring theme throughout these letters is the desire on the part of poet-lovers to forge their own mythology, their own creation myth, to write their own story with, hopefully, a happy ending — in Ronna Bloom’s terms, a “real” myth: “Here is my creation story…This one is no myth. No names have been changed. The locations are all true, the transplants and transatlantic losses.” Robert Kroetsch tells Martann he is “searching for a story that will end happily.” Ivan E. Coyote writes, “I really do love a good story…We wrote some really good stories, you and I.” In his poem, “Flames, at the Beginning,” Douglas LePan evokes a phoenix rising from its ashes:


I am burning your letter, as you asked me to.

In the light through the window it flames up like a great

gold chrysanthemum.

Our love will flourish like that, extravagant and secret.


LePan’s simile — or perhaps more accurately, metaphysical conceit, comparing the burning letter to a flower — in turn likens the loop of destruction and creation to the clandestine love relationship.

The older poets in these pages treat aftermath rather differently, as revealed, for example, in the near-obsessive inventory-taking (of the past) in Earle Birney’s letters. Later life, for Linda Rogers and her beloved, is “our season of unrelenting/vigilance.” The inevitability of impending death exerts a sombre presence in this terminal season, and hard questions must be confronted: “Who will come for / us when the morphine kicks in?” (Rogers; italics in original). While tough questions such as this demand tough minds and hearts, poets in later life also demonstrate that age does not necessarily bring fewer feelings of vulnerability. What experience and time perhaps do bring, as Al Purdy suggests in his late-period poem “To –,” is a learned ability to embrace the contraries, the essential paradox at the heart of love:


And the mind that is both fearful of nothing

and fearless of everything has grown and become

lovely and earthly and yet beyond our soiled planet

its innocence the wisdom of things newborn

before corruption has entered their minds and bodies

and directed them to walk toward their death


— to see everything and to realize the best and worst

of everything

is to love and not forget


The romantic letters and epistolary poems in this volume reflect just this — “the best and worst / of everything” along with the courage and essential humanity of our poets. For baring their souls and wearing their hearts on their ink-stained sleeves, we owe them much gratitude. To my co-editor and the founding captain of this extreme epistolary marathon, David Eso, thank you. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to ride on the coattails of a fearless romantic, renegade thinker, and compassionate collaborator. I am also grateful for Roger Dorey’s constant support and original love songs, and for the diligent talents of my graduate student assistant and budding graphic novelist Courtney Loberg.



Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, October 2014



Malcolm Lowry to Carol Brown

Inglewood, Caldy, Cheshire, England

9.45 am, Saturday, April 1926

age 16


Carol: I am about to otter hunt. Ottiturhunturus sum. I didn’t sleep last night at all: I didn’t try, as a matter of fact — I paced up and down the room like a loon, half-blubbering: Then I swore for three quarters of an hour using a different word every time. Then I tried to read “The Way of All Flesh.” Then I drank some cold coffee Russell had shoved in my room. Then I swore for half an hour further using a different word every time. Then I went on trying to read “The Way of All Flesh.”

Then I paced up and down, laughing and swearing. Then I tried to go to sleep in a chair: I couldn’t bear to get into bed, and finally, having dozed for about half-an-hour, till roughly 4.40 am — I climbed out of the window, on to a balcony, let myself down on to our unused tennis lawn, and walked to Heswall. At Heswall I smoked three* (this * on second thought is an exaggeration — I smoked only two) pipes: then I walked back again in time for breakfast. (I had a cold bath before this: detail is the essence of art oh artist) And now I am going to otter hunt. Ottihunturus sum.


{7 pm.} I’ve just got in (not the bath) — from the otterhunt: naturally, you will see, the first thing I do is to continue this. It’s been on my mind all day — not the letter — you: apologies for “it.”

Now. Bachelor. I must apologize. There was much truth in what you said so far as concerns yourself: I can see that it must be dashed annoying to tell people cheerfully every other day that they’re paying you a superlative compliment but (dot), and (dot), if (dot). But as for me, did I tell you to your face that I loved you? I didn’t? I do, of course, but ça va: wait a minute: I gave you a note telling you as much, a note which had it not been for a combination of ridiculous circumstances, I would never have given you. Of course I meant every word and much more: but let me say to my credit that if I have written one note to you I have written fifty, or five hundred is perhaps nearer, which I hadn’t the cheek to deliver, of course, then: I tore them up sadly railing at the irony of…the strength of note-paper. Wait a moment. I’ve got to browse upon a chop with considerable gusto. Then on with the dance.


{11.30 p.m.} […] I’m writing this in bed so excuse the pencil. Now talking about this letter — here was I dying of love for you taking a walk before lunch for no purpose other than just to see the house you live in, and (sentimental blighter) as I walked I dreamed a little dream: I would meet you on the moor, and you would be looking sweeter than ever: you would rate me sardonically-playfully for ill treating the dog, and the dog would look at me so adoringly that you couldn’t help but believe that here was the perfect master: the wind would play about with your hair, you would accompany me on my walk, or I on yours, and in a secluded spot I would say “My God, Carol, I love you.” Just like that. No more, no less. { I would give you the letter to read later.} And you were going to be so impressed, but not impressed enough to make me believe that you hadn’t thought I loved you all along, and you would be just discouraging enough for me to see that you not only didn’t mind but were as braced as anything. And in the stage of my mind, a pretty little romance featuring yourself, myself, the dog, and wind (off) — with ripping scenery — was playing its two thousandth performance to an empty house.


{12-2am} So far so good. And then suddenly my seat in an ethereal upper circle became heather: You were there, a scarf was blowing about. My hat, but didn’t you look sweet, not ’arf you didn’t: You were there, Carol dear, I was there, the dog was there. You looked so fair. Chaucer would have said you were fayre Shakespeare that you were fair. I have said fair. What indeed could be fairer than that? And I came along to you, and I swallowed and looked a complete smidgett, the dog ran away, and as a last resort I gave you the letter as though to convince myself that the dream, had, in a fashion, come true. And it had for you were there, and it was the most deliriously happy moment of my life when I saw you. I walked to Greasby looking for the dog which had gone in the other direction — but I sang all the way. Thanks, dear Carol, for whatever you may have done in the ultimate restoration of that canine — awfully. I sang my way into lunch. I sang my way into Hillthorpe to play tennis. I sang my way silently into the drawing room: and sang discordantly into vile drivel I strained out of a wonderful piano, but a piano which must just hate the sight of me in future — poor piano. I sang my way down the drive: but at the bottom — “You were flattered,” You were a member of a worthy club, You were horrid and you were bitten and you didn’t encourage me in the least: (really you made me love you more {12.30} than ever.) There were others. So with me — but all vanished in the wind. I’d die for you, Carol. I’d sell my soul for you. If you were bitten — I’d sail round the world to make the fellow who bit you apologize to you for it again. Or if you love him, I’d make him marry, you, somehow — dunno how, damn him! I know I’m the sincerest: I’ll love you still when you haven’t a tooth or hair in your head: for you, if I’m in your way, I’ll chuck up all my material ambition, such as it is, run away from home, school, toil, kindred (see hymn?), and become an assistant bar tender in Honduras or somewhere without a 1/2 sou if necessary — I’m not trying to appeal to your sense of romance: I’m endeavoring to be desperately (you will say, {12.45} comically, or pathetically or something — “the child Malcolm isn’t old enough,” isn’t he though!) sincere.

I’ll wait as many years as you like if you’ll offer me only hope: I can’t believe that I have it in me to write a letter so consistently unappealing and bad as this. Carol, I’m beastly sleepy, you’re seeing Raffles to-night aren’t you, hope you have a good time.

Oh Carol will you try and manage to see me alone again to-day: if you disdain to dream of me as a too youthful lover, can’t you effect a compromise between the idea of a friend and a lover. More than friend — less than lover, a lie — : but a lie of advancement; a sort of frover, not be confused with plover. Carol, if you won’t wait, I’ll swear that I’ll never marry anybody else, and I’ll die of love for you anyhow, before I could think of such a thing. Carol I’m going to sleep with the light on I’m too tired to turn it off


{2am} Light’s still on. I did go to sleep, Carol, but my brain’s clear now. I — love — you. A word in eight letters beginning with I and ending with u. Will you write some sort of note just telling me the worst, telling me to go to blazes or something, though don’t say anything you don’t mean because you’re so kind to everything you might easily Am I a rotter talking like this?

How can I possibly stop loving you when it’s sort of predestined. I know I’m rather a smidgett: but I play the average games as averagely badly as the average public school boy: and there’s always one chance in 1 million, twenty thousand, five hundred that I might win the amateur (pronounced amater {I’ve just learned that}) Championships. I’ll die of sorrow at school if you don’t say something.

Tell me your address at the Art School and I’ll write you there from school if it’s only friendly, “unaccomplished unaccomplishment.” But I accomplished something to-day. I went to an Otterhunt. I have otterhunted. Otterhuntavi. Oh my hat, there is nothing like adding the last touch of bathos.


“Mr. If not exactly right not altogether wrong”



Malcolm Lowry to Carol Brown

C.B. Leys School, Cambridge, England

June Night, 1926


Dear old Carol,

You have that inestimable treasure, a sense of humour. I hope that I too, [have that inestimable treasure, a sense of humour.]


You, yourself, are an [inestimable treasure]; you silhouette excellently, dance pricelessly, play tennis comme un cherubim: in fact you are everything, and no doubt can analyze everything in your own way, but strictly between you, me, and the O. Cedar mop, you are entirely inaccurate on the psychology stunt.

If you knew, woman, how I read and reread your letters; how I’m thinking of you all the while; in short, how passionately fond I am of you; how this, and how that; you would see how hopelessly you fail to put your creed over the footlights. (Wait a mo, a cove has got the “Fascinating Rhythm” on the gramophone, and the record has just reached that piano solo part, and I can’t keep still). Where have I got to — oh — I see. Well — believe me. What I mean to say is this, without for a moment growing sentimental (because you hate me when I’m being sentimental), that in accordance with the Coué system of Arithmetical progression — I love you more & more. And dash it — your letters are ripping, and I frenziedly (spelling very doubtful) look every gift postman in the mouth every time he doesn’t bring one of your letters. I dart to and fro to the porter’s lodge — every post, and come away with a grin or a groan, as the case mebbe. And if you really mean that ingenuous remark about my being a man in a hundred if I can still care for you, well, I raise my Stetson to myself, I am a man in a hundred. What — ho!

Yes, and talking about laughing behind people’s backs — we had an inspection to-day, you know, a sodden beribboned old field marshal with an eye glass swerved about and looked generally cynical, (have I made that remark before; I’m fond of nursing metaphors), and told us, after 4 pints of Bissekers Italian Vermouth, that we were the world’s best corps. West were fifth in the house competition, which is distinctly good considering there were, I believe at least five entries. However.

Your actor friends, your description, and your photographs (for which thanks very much: I can’t bear to send them back the one of you, but I suppose it’s a point of honour, not that I have an honour or anything, but you know what I mean) are most interesting. I’d love to meet them; however conflicting circumstances conflict and all that […].

I hope that for the promotion of admirability of character, you will never either see or hear my play “Traffic” — which is a drunken soliloquy; which I am assured would run for years in the Fiji Islands as a curtain raiser, but here would not get within three feet of the Lord Chamberlain, who would have to use ink with a spray. However it is quite sincere, but will, I’m afraid, have to be buried quietly, although it means well. Monsieur Émile Zola, and William Shakespeare, confrères of mine — have the same trouble. What?

My dearest old thing; it takes seven forwards all stamping on my neck in the scrum to hurt me, so don’t be alarmed; and talking about Thomas Meighan — I can do that sort of thing.



Absolutely yours, Malcolm



Gwendolyn MacEwen to Milton Acorn

December 28, 1960

age 19


Dear Milt –

Probably the most beautiful and honest thing that I’ve ever received was your little letter. I can’t match it.

Sincerity like this staggers me; I’ve seen too little and too much of it one way and another; I’ve valued it so highly that when someone hands it to me as directly as you have, I’m not sure whether I should jump for joy or burst into tears. (In a way I’m much more a child than you’d like to believe)

I’m going to say many things here — not to be long-winded, not to give the impression of point where there isn’t any — But because I want to tell you things somehow. I think if I could paint out one long me through all the different tones and shades and intensities I’d truly be an achievement…

Milt, don’t ever write a novel — or two — or three…after a while you become unable to condense thoughts, feelings. I’m so over-conscious of words now that I can’t (as you so beautifully can) imply and mean so very much in so very little.

Sincerity. This is what my dear father named the Number One Virtue in life. (Why couldn’t you be just a little insincere and make it easy for me?) But then I think that’s what drew me to you really — one enormous plus sign —

And insincerity — insincerity to oneself — probably the most deadly thing that can happen to a person — I’ve seen that in action too…and its outcome

So much for the background of those words — all I’ve done (and not too well, I’m afraid) is given you a glimpse of the reason honesty has such an impact on me

Love. Again I’ve had too little and too much of it. Probably too much (if that is possible). So much, in fact, that I’m convinced I’ll eventually be swallowed up in it, completely. Horrible fate!

I believe everything I do, think, or feel is touched off by love. And I have such a capacity for it I don’t know how to focus it in any one direction. I might go out tomorrow morning and kiss a dozen butterflies! (This is not a piece of imagery from a poem — this is a fact)

A love for people. (I’m still young enough not to have this fact of love shattered. If it will be then I’m determined not to grow any older. Not the least little bit

This idea, Milt, is what I call my blissful ignorance, and will remain so until life forces me to alter it — if ever. Although I believe in some ways that what I’ve experienced thus far — would make some people become absolute cynics, or failing that, prompt them to take a long neat dive from a tall bridge.

No, no — I’m not bemoaning it at all. Somewhere along the line I developed one terrific resistance — which I’m grateful for. But what is more important I retained a whole big chunk of that initial love, trust, and joy of life that we are born with. And along with it, an immense and overwhelming delight and sensitivity in, yes — almost anything. This has made me something of a poet (am I permitted to be so presumptuous?)

I didn’t mean to ramble on so, really I didn’t. So much for SONG OF MYSELF!

Of course I love you! But I am neither capable nor ready for the kind of love you offer me. I don’t even have a half-decent letter to give you, let alone myself!

Milt, my love is not the same as yours…you’re a mature man, and I’m (and I’ll defend this to my dying day) still in a sense a little girl poking my head out the window at the world. Existence? I’m still establishing it to myself. At this point I need no proof for it — I feel no need to find myself physically, sensually, emotionally in another person — I’m still laying the foundations! I’m still getting acquainted with life, with myself…

I don’t want that song of yours to end, to be completed; to me there is no expectancy, no conception of fulfillment. There is today and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow and me listening to you and you listening to me (though I don’t say much) and gaining what I can from you (you’ve taught me so much already, you know) and feeling myself wonderfully diminished with you (because sometimes I get O so big)

But beyond this rather endless list — nothing more. Your “completeness” can’t find a place in all this for me, I know it…as I see our relationship, this is not a natural outcome at all. I feel this way, Milt — because as I said before — your feelings are those of a mature man, while mine…well you know the rest

Because you fit another sort of niche in my life altogether, one which I know and understand — one of the few things I do understand — you’ll never quite realize just what you’ve already given me

Completion, fulfillment in themselves — I’m aware of the need for it as I possibly can be at this stage. When I eventually find this particular need in myself, however, I’ll try not to worry

Milt — I can’t possibly give you back a fraction of what you’ve given me — I mean this. So when you’re suddenly loaded down with droves of little fluffy animals and things, please take pity on me, because it’s the best I can do —

I want, I wish so much for you — because your life, your happiness, your desires truly matter to me. I want to see a hundred more little miltons going out and damning us with their honesty

but most of all I want you just now to understand what I’ve said, what I’ve tried to say in this insane little letter (when I read it over I’m tempted to throw my career in writing out the window entirely and become a missionary instead)

because my father’s “Number One Virtue” is the most difficult thing for me to use — only because I value it so highly. Each word, each phrase must be just as I mean it, or it won’t do at all…

But believe it or not, I can’t remember when I’ve been able to open up like this for anyone. It’s confused, it’s contrary, yes but it’s also me. Please accept it; please don’t be hurt or angry — I wouldn’t have been able to tell you even this much if your feelings hadn’t meant enough to me to warrant my giving you the best, the most truthful answer to what you’ve asked that I am capable of




Robert Kroetsch to Martann ———

Heisler, Alberta

August 25, 1947

age 20


Dear Martann,

You have probably forgotten the sad young fool who bid you farewell on the cloudy morning of the 23rd, but he, a victim of youth’s idealism, has not forgotten you. You are hard to forget.

It is not raining today. It is not raining as it rained the day we parted, but the melancholy of rain is not gone. You are hard to forget, and when something is gone but not forgotten, melancholy must linger on, especially when the dreamer does not want to forget.

After your train disappeared into the mountains, Geoff and I went back to the cabin and finished packing. After lunch we took our baggage to the station and went down town. There were no familiar faces in the Quaker. They were all gone; replaced by strange, older, more serious faces. There were no students sitting and gossiping on the auditorium steps. They were all gone, and the steps were bare. The school was silent and baggage was piled in front of the girls’ dorm. Then we realized what the end of school meant. We were no longer two groups of gay students, living and laughing together; we were two bored tourists, gazing curiously at the town of Banff and wondering where the happiness of the past six weeks had gone. We went to the Quaker and each had a turkey burger and a chocolate milkshake, and then we went to the station.

We saw Pat, Ro and Charlotte at the station. Charlotte’s friend was there, perfectly sober and saying good-bye to everyone. Jackie was there, and after a sweet embrace, she took leave of Alex. Their engagement, if they are engaged, will have to endure a temporary separation.

Geoff and I boarded the 5:45 train together. Soon we were rolling eastward, talking about the pleasant past and reviewing our regrets. The mountains shrank to foothills, the foothills flattened out to become prairies, and then we were at Calgary. Geoff went east and I went north, each sorry to leave the other, and hoping to meet again.

I slept through a show, “The Hucksters,” in Calgary and caught a train at 11:45. By 6:30 I was in Edmonton.

It was Sunday and there wasn’t much to do, but George (He caricatured you in your autograph, remember?) was spending a few days in Edmonton on his way to Toronto, so I phoned him and we went for a long walk in the Alberta sunshine.

We walked and talked. Like all masculine conversations, our conversation soon had a feminine topic. Two feminine topics I should say, for he talked of Dat. and I talked of you. You will forgive me, I hope, but it is relieving to get such things off one’s mind. It was a delightful conversation, centered on a very delightful subject, and we walked a long ways.

We walked around the university campus, and I was disappointed to find its traditionally calm and scholarly atmosphere disturbed by the sights and sounds of feverish mechanical activity. But I shouldn’t really complain, for they are building a new library, and what more could a student dream of? (A wonderful girl, far away!) George and I parted late in the afternoon when I boarded a bus bound for Heisler. George was a great pal. He would do a friend any favor, and everyone was his friend. He spends an enviable life, traveling and painting.

Heisler and home had not changed. Heisler was still a little town; home was still a nice place at which to be.

It has been raining for four days, the fields are wet, so I have nothing to do but to read and to write. I am reading Hutchison’s “The Unknown Country.” It is a most interesting book on Canada. I hope to read MacLennan’s “Two Solitudes” anon. The wheat is ripe, so as soon as the fields are dry, I shall have only the evenings free for reading and writing.

I rather like to turn on the radio and work, or pretend to work, as I listen to good music. But this evening all is quiet as I write.

My sisters (I have four of them, and no brothers) are all gone to visit a lady who has just returned from the hospital with a baby girl. Poor lady! Four girls, all younger than I, can make a lot of noise. Silence is truly golden.

The sunset was beautiful tonight; more beautiful than any I saw in the mountains, for it was a masterpiece, painted by a free and boundless painter; a painter who had all the sky for a canvas; a painter who covered the blue sky of the west with a jumble of orange and red and purple clouds.

You are probably engulfed in a charming little fog now. How fortunate you are! Or I should say, how fortunate the fog is! If I were a fog I too would engulf you in my misty arms.

But I am a mortal being; too well aware of the limitations created by 900 mountainous miles, so all I can do is send this letter. If it should inspire a response, as I hope it will, please address your letter to me at Heisler. Heisler, Alberta; that’s all; no more, no less. I shall not be in Edmonton until the end of September, and that is a long, long ways in the future.

I am going to start my story about the artist now. It is going to be a tragedy. It is going to be a tragedy because life is so full of tragedy, and it is the writer’s task to portray a phase of life as he sees it. Someday, yes, someday, perhaps, I shall have a reason for writing happy endings!



Robert Kroetsch to Martann ———

St. Joseph’s College, University of Alberta

Edmonton, Alberta

September 29, 1947


Dear Martann,

You have converted me. I am going to write a story with a happy ending. My tale about the artist has become a short short story and I’m now engaged in the tragic task of searching for a story that will end happily.

I hope you will forgive me for not sending a snap of myself, but it has rained almost continually for three weeks (worse than Victoria), and I can’t get a camera, the sun, and myself together at one time. But I promise to have one for you the next time I write, for the traditional Alberta sunshine has returned in all its glory to rule supreme for the next few weeks. Besides, I can’t understand why you would want a picture of me when you’ve got the excellent sketch which you made the night we met at the new chalet. No camera could ever rival the hand of so illustrious an artist!

I have a few pictures of Geoff, and am willing to part with one. I fear that you have misinterpreted Geoff’s attitude concerning you. Everything he said about you was complimentary, and I’m sure that he didn’t want to leave the impression that he disliked you.

Please tell me more about the art school. I’m very much in on institutions which endeavor to spread and develop the fine arts.

Last Thursday I registered for my third and last year in Arts at the U. of Alberta. I am taking Philosophy 51 (The history of ideas), Psychology 58 (Psychology in relation to social and economic problems), English 57 (The Romantic Movement) and Political Economy 63 (The theory of government). Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? I have a terrific stack of textbooks to read, so instead of facing the brutal fact, I’m reading “The Robe” by Lloyd C. Douglas. It’s great fun being an escapist.

There was a dance for freshman last Saturday night, so I, a mighty senior, disguised as a humble freshman, crept in unnoticed (after paying 50¢). Who did I meet there, but Alexandria, who used to live in the new chalet.

She said she writes to you. I danced with her twice, trying to get up enough courage to talk about you, but only succeeded in talking about everyone else. You see, I felt that I would be betraying a sacred secret if I, a hard-hearted man, revealed the fact that a woman, a mere woman, a very pretty, charming and talented woman, would be my favorite topic. And so, as I danced with Alexandria and suffered in silence, I talked of art and professors, and thought of Banff and you! Still I hope to write a happy ending. Young writers are vain creatures!

The story I wrote at Banff is, I hope, no reflection on my character or my past. I have never been a squatter’s son living in a cabin by a creek, I have never been in an embarrassing predicament with a rancher’s daughter, and I have never frozen to death in a snow storm. The story was a fictitious story, based on observations rather than experiences.

I received a letter from George a few days ago. He sees Ro and Chris a lot at art school in Toronto.

Have you any brothers or sisters, or are you a spoiled only child? My sisters are all in school now, and I’m one hundred miles from home, so I have escaped from the noise and gossip. In fact I miss the noise and gossip a little. Tell me more about your family, the wonders of Vancouver, and the life of a painter in general.

My two snaps of you are masterpieces in the study of feminine beauty!

With love,




Gwendolyn MacEwen to Milton Acorn

Ward’s Island, Toronto, Ontario

January 16, 1963

age 21


Dear Milton,

I moved my things over today, am finally settled.

No, I don’t believe my actions indicate any need to care for someone…any more than I married to care for you…if the cards look that way on the surface, it is because circumstance has flung them in one direction; I don’t, for instance, want to “care for” Mallory…only two men have been strong enough to draw out the depths of me — you and he. You may not understand the last, but it is so.

Please remember that for you…many experiences were behind you, trials and errors, that you had had your time of discoveries in love, and wanted most to be settled with one. I thought I too wanted that…but realized quickly that I hadn’t had my time, that you were the first, and even the bonds we had were not sufficient to stop me from loving another. My concern for your welfare now consists of praying that you realize it was not whim or wildness which made me go, but a sudden clear realization that tho you were the first man of importance to me, you could not be the last.

Of course I am a socialist (with much to yet learn of it). But you seem to think that by being able to love one who is not, that makes me not one…I don’t understand your reasoning here (if that is your reasoning, I’m surmising mainly)…was Vikki a socialist? Does it matter? Does that make you less one? Mallory was a communist…but, dwarves, you say? Only when you see giants can dwarves be implied. Only when you have seen the beauty of the potential man can you fiercely laugh at our littleness — the impatient wild loving laughter of a dwarf looking at himself and knowing he is potentially more. Mallory is also a dwarf. What do you think drives him to sickness? Think on it. No need to say more here.


And I’m a dwarf, and you…

But we are also giants…


Knowing it drives us to the poem…

It drives some beyond the poem…one should never have to see what is beyond that…


[…] My supreme wish has always been to be of benefit to man. It is greatly idealistic, and I must work until I can work no longer; I don’t know when that will be.

Yes, I did break the promise of marriage; only because I made it not knowing many things of myself, made it for all the wrong reasons…Now I am out of it. I would not have it any other way. My wish is that you will begin things again for yourself…yet you say you can’t…surely it was more than me that has emptied you like this…somehow it is terrible and frightening for me to think that I could hold that size of life-meaning for another human being; it is heavy; it does not make me proud. Yet for you it was a settling, a surety, after you had had experiences…whereas for me it was a beginning, a growth of myself…in spite of our bonds, which were rare and beautiful…we cannot pull those two ends together…




A.M. Klein to Bessie Kozlov

October, 1931

age 22


To Bessie:


Here they are — all those sunny April days!

The sticky buds upon the maple-trees;

The dawns; the dewdrops juggling the sun’s rays;

The robins prim, and the swashbuckling bees.

And more than that. Here June, and dog roses —

Do you recall the bush we plucked ours from?

The tall grass bent where lovers hid to kiss;

Unchristened fieldflies, and their heathen hum.

I cannot bring a forest on my back;

Nor pull the lining of my pockets out,

Dropping a sun or moon; nor can I crack

A whip, and have trees leap and mountains shout.

But what I can do, failing such magic bright,

Is bring these, as I do, in black and white.


— Abbie


Think not, my dear, because I do not call

You darling names over the tea and cakes,

Nor sigh, nor stroke your fingers, nor speak small,

Nor point to show the parlour my heart aches,

Think not I love you less. Not I the man

To wait until the sewing-circle hoves

In sight, then love according to a plan,

And set the gossips talking of two doves.

Too much the mine to show it to the mob,

Or tattoo it upon my arm, or wear

It dangling public from my watch’s fob,

Your first-name, which is ours, and not to share.

It is enough the sparrow on your sill

Already knows our love, as others will.



Kai Cheng Thom to ———

Montreal, Quebec

July 15, 2013

age 22


I want to ask if you know what it feels like to be queer and Chinese and working class and sleeping with a rich, pretty White boy, but of course you don’t, and you never will. Well, boys like me spend their whole lives waiting to be chosen and fucked and dumped by boys like you. That isn’t your intention, of course. You don’t really know what you want. You want to just try things out, experiment, have fun, see where it goes. Well, I want that too. But it doesn’t work that way for people like me. We don’t get to experiment, just have fun, without consequences. We don’t know what it’s like to not be in love with you. We loved you the moment you looked at us, held our hand, danced dirty, kissed us. We were lost in you way before we even met, before the thought crossed your mind that you were bored and we were vaguely good-looking, interesting, exotic, fuckable. While you were weighing options, we were just hoping that it wouldn’t hurt too much — the fucking, or the falling in love, or the rejection. We didn’t get to choose.

Yes, I know that you have problems too. Coming out is hard, social anxiety is hard, relationships are hard, figuring out who you are in life is hard. I don’t want to belittle your hardships. But we are different, and I am frankly too old to be afraid of naming our differences. You were afraid of being gay and getting cut off by your parents, so you waited until you were in your teens or twenties to go to a bar, get hit on, go on a date. You had the thrill of first eye contact when some other pretty, white college student looked at you from across the room. You had the exhilaration and terror of first touch, first sex, first boyfriend home for Thanksgiving. You never knew what was going to happen, how things were going to turn out, and yes, I sympathize, that must have been really scary for you.

I had being outed at 12 before I knew what the word faggot meant. I have a whole community that believes queerness is a white people’s disease. I had illicit touching by my camp counsellor at age 14. I had the belief that this was the best gay loving I would ever get. I had being the only Asian in the gay bar on any given night. I had knowing that the only men who would find this attractive found only my being Asian attractive, not me for myself. I had rape after rape after rape and no words to say slow down this is wrong please stop I am not okay. I had the strangely calm, detached knowledge that all of this was going to happen before it did. This horrible weakness, like some invisible, incredible weight pulling me through the motions of touching you, trying to please you, falling in love with you, swallowing all of your bullshit. This skin cripples me. It always has.



Chris Masson to “Moana”

Montreal, Quebec


age 22


our lady of many voyages,

how were the rails?

i miss yr ringtone alrdy.

come back yestrday

sent 11:13pm Fri Jun23


met up with j and jo

soccer was a no go

supper was yum, yo

miss u like gong shows

luv u like god knows

cant wait till we touch toes

sent 8:50pm Sat Jun24


we luv like hyper psychic luaus

u are my dynamite cherry pie

i luv u 2 bits

<3 <3 <3

sent 1:03am Sun Jun25


the street fair is on.

st laurnt is all tents and mangos

ppl r out in 2s.

i hve leftovr chow mein

but no1 2 leave it ovr with.

sent 9:22pm Sun Jun25


yr train is in my dreams of u.

it blows blond smke

and has big round wndows.

it gets in at 110

and has a rugby team of me waitng

c u at 111

sent 12:57pm Mon Jun26



A.J.M. Smith, 1925

age 23


What Strange Enchantment


What strange enchantment

Out of Faery

Or the land of flowers

Have you woven over me three times

That the shy glances of your eyes

Are the meshes of a net

For my limbs

And the dark sheen of your hair

Candle light

For my moth thoughts

And your white breasts

Twin moons

To draw my tides?



Priscila Uppal to Christopher Doda

mid-October, 1997

age 23


Dear Chris,

It is funny how I can’t find time to mail my bills but when I’m trying to keep myself from phoning you I make my way to a pen or a keyboard and greedily lick the stamps and find the time to mail these little lines to you, pretending you are here, with your long comforting arms around me, and my words (oh so many words) rattling off as if you were listening. I think I hear you sometimes while I sleep, I think I see you by the light in the hallway, your grey robe draped slightly over your shoulders, your head hunched down, taking off your black socks and your belt, getting ready to startle me with your icy toes and steal all the heat I managed to cocoon myself into by the time you finish brushing your teeth. I know I’m being sentimental and gooey but you must expect such sucky behaviour out of me by now.

I burnt my toast thinking of you today, I nearly missed the crosswalk, I told you I loved you out loud, and I pet the cats as if my fingernails were long and welcome as yours are. I even think of the conversation we will have tomorrow so I include none of it here knowing I will tell you myself about my test, and my visit from my fairy godmother. This note is just pure love. Isn’t that what letters are for? And if words could kiss each one is my lips upon yours, or on your forehead, or on your back, knees, fingertips, I could go on, as you probably know…

I hope your thoughts are less desperate than these, but it is midnight and though I couldn’t sleep last night and can barely keep my eyes open, some nights I find it really hard to sleep in our christened bed alone and tonight is one of them, and though I spoke at school, and had Gabby over, I feel as if I haven’t had human contact because I’ve been denied of yours. Halloween awaits us, I suppose. In costumes and make-up the two Scorpios will meet again. I invited another girl to the party and told her that myself, you, and Shannon were Scorpios all in the same week — her reaction was “God! There must be so much sex going on!” At least astrology has given us a good and true calling. I miss your body on mine, and Shannon’s of course. My two soul mates are elsewhere, but always in my thoughts. I hope there will be room for all these people, and I hope that it won’t be too cold out, though today was awfully cold and windy too.

Prof, who was asleep, is now of course jealous of the computer, probably thinks I’m eating. He’s giving me dirty looks and is still being a grump-a-lump since yesterday. I think he’s getting old and weary. He has taken every opportunity in the last two days to sit on any book I’ve touched and to push his little face against a book if I’m reading in bed. Not allowed: must give full attention to the divine creature he is. He must think I’m so boring. Speaking of which, I hope you’re not, by the letter or by your own readings. I will let you go now and may you have a good day after reading this or a pleasant night (depending on when you open your mailbox). I love you darling. I hope you don’t mind typed letters. I’m trying to get practice on the computer, and it goes faster, and you don’t have to deal with my handwriting. Anyway, love, goodnight, and don’t worry I hear your sweet messages over the miles somehow.



C. Isa Lausas and Tyson John Atkings

Across Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

January 23-27, 2014

ages 23 and 24


12:27pm Do you remember the room where you almost fell apart?

12:29pm It was white…I think.

12:47pm Have you seen it?

12:50pm Likely. I remember water stains on the roof. I remember the floor. I remember spending a lot of time looking at the corner of the room.

12:55pm I remember twisted orgasms and watching the dustbunnies float across the floor.

12:56pm I remember flaccid dick and thanking the sun for a window.

1:05pm Visual details are blurred for me. I remember the dark. The moulded smell. A silent scream. I thought I was alone.

1:05pm Were you?

1:50pm Be careful what you say… speaking of ghosts will bring them to life…

1:59pm (Apparently i summoned one, ha)

2:18pm (I dont believe in God but I am starting to believe in coincidence less and less every day)

3:12pm I do not speak of loss. Anonymity and an apparent need of touch. I saw a faceless figure, far in the street, when I closed my eyes to the experience of a muted sense of shame.

3:22pm (Keep going, lady)

3:26pm (I’m in class)

3:36pm The white walls seemed too high for humans. First object of attraction: blood on the rags on the floor. Body away from itself.

3:48pm Be quiet I was told. A threatening breath and a silent scream. I thought I was alone.

4:07pm Was the door unlocked?

4:16pm Questions are natures way of making fire.

4:17pm No-one ever believed it.

4:20pm But I was there.

4:23pm I thought I was alone…

4:33pm (I would believe it)

4:34pm Locks are natures way of causing break-ins.

4:38pm How can you remember?

4:39pm How do you talk to an alien?

4:40pm Slowly.

4:40pm Remembering is natures way of forgetting.

4:41pm I thought I was alone.

4:42pm No-one should remember.

4:44pm Unless you will.

4:46pm (My heart is bleeding from today. Can we be together tonight?)

4:51pm (We don’t have to talk or anything I'd just like your company)

5:11pm (Perhaps. I am going to ——— around 7 for a launch, I can let you know when i’m done there)

5:12pm (This one took a lot out of me, I think I deserve my wine tonight, haha)

5:18pm (No worries though, I’m actually quite happy about it)

5:18pm (I wasn't worried)

5:19pm (Good)


7:12pm There is no air in my lungs today.

7:16pm Suck it up. *cough*

7:16pm Lack of oxygen. Dysfunction.

7:18pm I tried to write something beautiful; flat.

7:27pm I wonder if acid rain means poison air.

7:36pm (Fuck it’s cold)

7:36pm Flat writing. Watery signature on letters.

7:38pm Bubbles in brain. Black hole in air.

7:41pm The divine vacuum hums into the night.

8:53pm The post-poets hang & swing & distribute leaflets. I just hang.

8:57pm My teeth are fallingofffallingoff people are eating nachos with their hands my head is elsewhere they talk they speak I can’t breathe lack of air

8:57pm If I disappear who’ll miss me? Not me.

8:59pm I will miss you.

9:09pm The wind blows and hanging is not always bad.

9:16pm Hang on hang on hang on. You’re so small that the wind will take you away. I’ve always been floating. I’ve never learned the art of flying. I keep falling.

Would you like to know how the story ends?

Buy "Where the Nights Are Twice as Long" in your preferred e-book store and continue reading:


Apple iBookstore




Enjoy your reading!