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Poets Write the Best Love Letters

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Brenna Clarke Gray

Staff Writer

Part muppet and part college faculty member, Brenna Clarke Gray holds a PhD in Canadian Literature while simultaneously holding two cats named Chaucer and Swift. It's a juggling act. Raised in small-town Ontario, Brenna has since been transported by school to the Atlantic provinces and by work to the Vancouver area, where she now lives with her stylish cyclist/webgeek husband and the aforementioned cats. When not posing by day as a forserious academic, she can be found painting her nails and watching Degrassi (through the critical lens of awesomeness). She posts about graphic narratives at Graphixia, and occasionally she remembers to update her own blog, Not That Kind of Doctor. Blog: Not That Kind of Doctor Twitter: @brennacgray

where the nights are twice as long coverThe most beautiful book crossed my desk this week, gang, and given it’s the time for lovers I had to tell you about it (but it’s a great year-long collection, frankly): Where the Nights Are Twice as Long is a collection of love letters written by Canadian poets, and oh my god if it isn’t the most deliciously charming tome.

Sure, this would make a great gift for someone you love, but it’s also a wonderful resource for anyone who can’t always find the words they want to say the things they need to say. I’m pretty sure that’s the guarantee on the tin of any poet you bring home from the shops: “Poets: Being Better at Love Since Language Started.”

What I like best about the collection is that it is arranged chronologically by the age of the poet at the time of writing. Lord knows, what I found romantic in my teen years is not what I find romantic now, and looking ahead through this collection to what awaits me in middle age and beyond was gratifying in a million ways I hadn’t expected. The letters are tender and funny, passionate and angry, sexy and deeply personal. And the collection also gave me new insight into some of my favourite famous literary romances, like Susan Musgrave and Stephen Reid, both writers, who were married in the 1980s while Reid was incarcerated for robbing banks:

He became distant and we passed through the gates that lock us out, lock us in, lock us everywhere away. I got in my car and thought of you doing three years chained in the hole having bean cake slapped on your face three times a day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I thought that’s the saddest thing I know.

Break my heart.

The romances chronicled in this collection and old and young, queer and straight, timeless and instant. If you want to check out some more, the publisher Goose Lane has set up a Tumblr that presents selected passages beautifully, like this one:

robert service on love

And all of this has sent me skittering through some of my favourite love letters by authors.

Thought Catalogue posted this one from Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas (all Wilde fans do your traditional “Bosie!” fist-shake at the sky here):

My Own Boy,

Your sonnet is quite lovely, and it is a marvel that those red rose-leaf lips of yours should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing. Your slim gilt soul walks between passion and poetry. I know Hyacinthus, whom Apollo loved so madly, was you in Greek days.

Why are you alone in London, and when do you go to Salisbury? Do go there to cool your hands in the grey twilight of Gothic things, and come here whenever you like. It is a lovely place and lacks only you; but go to Salisbury first.

Always, with undying love, yours,

And the Atlantic posted this one from Virginia Woolf to Vita Sackville-West:

Look Here Vita — throw over your man, and we’ll go to Hampton Court and dine on the river together and walk in the garden in the moonlight and come home late and have a bottle of wine and get tipsy, and I’ll tell you all the things I have in my head, millions, myriads — They won’t stir by day, only by dark on the river. Think of that. Throw over your man, I say, and come.

Sigh, you guys. Literary love letters are amazing! Do you have a favourite? Share it in the comments!

And you know, reading Where the Nights Are Twice as Long, these Canadian poets and their love letters stack up against all the greats quite nicely. Hey, winter’s long up here. It explains a lot.


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