Thank You for Writing That
When I started working for this magazine more than two decades ago, one of my responsibilities, as the editorial assistant, was to open the mail. Back then, in the final months of the twentieth century and the first couple of years into the twenty-first, there was a lot more postal mail arriving at the office than we see today. The Letters to the Editor section, now called Reactions, was filled with many more mailed-in missives than e-mails. This was before Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, of course, so if readers wanted to compliment or critique, many of them did so using a postage stamp.
Up until a week or so before this issue was due to the printer, we had planned in Reactions to share a letter by eighty-seven-year-old poet and visual artist E. Jean Lanyon of Wilmington, Delaware. Her handwritten letter wasn’t responding to any one essay or interview from the magazine, which is why we made the difficult decision to replace it with a more recent e-mail pertaining to an article in the last issue. But ever since that decision was made, I’ve kept Lanyon’s words in mind, and it just didn’t feel right to miss this chance to share some of them here:
“Each time I receive Poets & Writers Magazine I want to write a letter to the editor. I have no computer, nor do I use one. Will anyone read a handwritten letter these days, let alone answer it? As a young widow with a child to raise, I had to put the publication of my poetry second, as there were no support systems except myself. My art career brought in a little, but I had to take full-time work, sometimes more than one job, to keep our lives together. Women in those days were paid a third to a half of what men were paid. We were not taken seriously. There have been more rejections than acceptances of my writing and art, but I am driven by my creativity and could not stop writing any more than I could stop breathing. I did not give up. If I have one thing to say to all creative people, it is this: Don’t ever give up. Success can come from the most unexpected places. Learn, live, grow, and your writing will mature and grow with you. Acknowledged or not, I continue to write and will until I die. I am of the mind that real people need poetry. I care about communication, to be understood, and to move others to say, ‘That is my experience and feeling, too, thank you for writing that.’”
Well put, E. Jean Lanyon—thank you for writing that. And thank you, dear writers, for reading this magazine. Let us know what you think of this issue, and if you don’t have a stamp, e-mail is just fine.