nothing to say is a letter series for artists, poets, lonely souls, and anyone involved in the mystery of trying to create things.
Every two weeks, I'll send you a letter, by email. I don't promise advice, instruction, or news. Only company — gentleness — a moment of seeing each other, of being seen. Or (Barthes): perhaps simply a way of confronting the sadness of the night together.
Read on, or skip over to How do I join?.
I have nothing to say
and I am saying it
and that is poetry
as I need it.*
Dear stranger, dear friend,
I wonder if, like me, you have been striving to say a little less. To say only what is true, no more than that. If, at the same time, you struggle with all that you can't say—is it because you lack ability, or because of something about the world, or because it's inherently unsayable?
The writer has a foreign origin; we do not know about the particular nature of these foreigners, but we feel they feel there is an appeal, that someone is calling them back.*
All your life, others have said very little to you that is true, that comes from that hidden place inside them. And for your part, you've had nothing much to say to them in return. Plenty of words exchanged; next to nothing actually getting across.
(That something inside you. What is it made of? Magma? Blood? Poison? Light?)
Yet what you really crave, more than anything, is to share with another person the kind of understanding that needs no words. The hunger for real words, and the disappointment at needing them to begin with—these are the opposing poles that hold you in place.
Welcome home, stranger. You're in good company here.
Every two weeks, I'll send you a letter, by email. The letter may be full of doubts, loneliness, also surpassing joy in the work that you and I do. It may tell the experience of time passing, and of time standing still. It may tell of diligent spiders, flowers opening in unexpected places, of birds caged and uncaged, of love—
The letter may have fewer answers than questions.
Not exercises to get words on the page, but: why put words on a page at all? What do we hope to accomplish?
Not news from the art or literary world, but: what has been handed down to us by those who came before? What did they hope for us, and what do we owe them?
Not craft—I couldn't tell you what a good sentence looks like, or how to come up with one. Like Elena Ferrante, When I write, it's as if I were butchering eels.* (It may not be pretty, but it needs to get done somehow.)
Not advice on how to get published, but: why publish? Why share at all?
What do we owe each other? And what do we owe our ideas?
I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.*
What to expect, then, if not advice, instruction, or news? Company. Gentleness. A moment of seeing each other, of being seen. Or (Barthes): perhaps simply a way of confronting the sadness of the night together.*
Are you beginning to sense the utter impossibility of ever being able to make something that would allow the depths of you to be fully known by an other?
And do you feel compelled to spend the rest of your life failing at it, anyway?
Then let's begin.
Who are you?
I'm Rory—just a person who likes to read books and write letters. For more about me, see the Contact page.
Will the letters be personalized?
The biweekly letter will be the same for everyone. But if you write me back, I will definitely read it, and you might just get a reply every now and then.
What if I'm not an artist? Should I still subscribe?
Look, all these labels are just for convenience. If you've read the entire description and it made you feel something, there's a good chance you are my people. Subscribe if you feel inclined to for any reason, even (especially) for reasons you don't understand. We don't always know what we are.
I have a different question.
"I have nothing to say..." John Cage, "Lecture on Nothing".
"'Nothing' is / the force..." Emily Dickinson, a poem.
"The writer has a foreign origin..." Hélène Cixous, Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing.
"When I write, it's as if I were butchering eels." Elena Ferrante, Frantumaglia.
"I want to beg you, as much as I can..." Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet.
"...perhaps simply a way of confronting..." Roland Barthes, How to Live Together.