…I admire your honesty and I know something about pain. The world can make it very difficult for a man to live his life as he feels he should, or as he knows he must. And the world has the power to kill.
On the other hand, that’s the extent of the world’s power. It seems to me that one has to recognize that one lives once only, and that the greatest crime a man can commit against himself is to refuse to live his life. ‘Live all you can,’ Henry James once said, ‘It’s a mistake not to.’
And love is the key to life — I think — I don’t think that people can learn very much as long as they’re afraid to love. And love is not a democratic matter, but a private matter."
—James Baldwin, in a letter to Richard Clemence, Los Angeles, June 18, 1968
Coming soon from University of Wisconsin Press.
dear Gerald: Call for Letters
Are you estranged from your father? Or fatherless? Have you ever thought about writing a letter to him? I’m asking people to submit letters addressed to their fathers, and in exchange, I will give you a copy of dear Gerald, a collection of 33 epistolary poems.
Books will be given away, free of charge, on a first-come, first-served basis. I have 95 copies of the book to give away, and 33 letters will be selected as inspiration for a later collection. Possible ways I may use participants’ letters: mash-ups, where I combine the letter with other texts to make one poem; erasures, where I remove text, while leaving behind particular words to reveal the poem within; or a direct response to the letter, as if I am the father.
I’ve been working on the dear Gerald collection for two years, starting when my mother asked if I wanted to write my father in Guyana—I haven’t seen him since I was three years old. A grant from the Center of Cultural Innovation will fund the publication of the book, as well as trip to South America, where I will give him a copy of the collection.
Many folks have stories and unresolved pain associated with fatherlessness. This gave me the idea to invite people to write letters to the fathers they do not know, who left them, who have not taken part in their lives.
There is always that suspicion you are alone. You are the only one who didn’t grow up with a father, and the shame of it consumes, even in small and unconscious ways. To share this work with the community is to push this conversation forward, to lessen the stigma of being a bastard, abandoned, forgotten, or never considered by one’s father, and to individually and collectively evolve into healing action. dear Gerald brings attention to the difficult bridges we must cross to get to a deeper understanding of who we are.
GUIDELINES: Letters written to your father can be creative, lyrical, or visual—it’s open to your interpretation. I ask that you formally begin the letter with “dear,” followed by your father’s name, and end the letter with a closing (i.e. Truly, Arisa).
DEADLINE: Send letters by NOVEMBER 1, 2014. Books will be mailed, starting in September.
WHERE TO SEND: dearGeraldletters@gmail.com or dearGerald Letters, P.O. Box 12742, Oakland, CA, 94604. Please include your mailing address and a 50-word bio.
"People don’t like love they like that flittery flirty feeling. They don’t love love, love is sacrificial, love is ferocious, it’s not emotive. Our culture doesn’t love love, it loves the idea of love. It wants the emotion without paying anything for it. It’s ridiculous."
—Matt Chandler (via tea-storm)