Do texts count as epistolary?

This is No 34 in a series. I will post one every day until the story is told. Today is No 34: A packet of letters

It was an ordinary night, I was with a boyfriend; I kind of knew it wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind but we got on well enough and he’d offered an evening down the pub: The Malt Shovel in Dartford Kent which was an old ale house with a public bar. It was and still is I imagine, one of  Dartford’s most established buildings and probably started  life as a pair of cottages. The oldest part of the building, the tap room, dates from 1673 and that was to be the historic venue wherein began an epistolary romance.

We made our way there to meet a friend who was just down from Cambridge. We were introduced and this friend and I discussed Sylvia Plath and all things poetry at the bar, the boyfriend blended into the background and towards the end of the evening, which was always 10 o’clock for me, the new friend took my copy of ‘Crossing The Water’ by Sylvia Plath and my address. We left one another promising to write and we were true to our word and managed a correspondence for over six months. After that night the current boyfriend was heading for the subs bench, it was inevitable.

Over that time our correspondence grew and I would rush home from school in the hope of finding a fat envelope, so full, it was held together by sticky tape. The handwriting was tiny and it was always written in dark ink on headed college notepaper. I fell totally in love with the man and the letters, their smell, their contents, their envelope and the mountains of poetry which spilled from them. It broke my heart when the relationship finally ended and ironically it happened all over again some thirty years later, but that is another story and that time  it started by email.

I kept those letters with me like a talisman, they epitomised everything I ever wanted from a lover, confidante and fellow creative. All my life I ended up looking for the blueprint which was formed back in 1975, with no success.  The letters would drive a wedge between me and others and I remember the day I was forced to throw them away as they had become too toxic to keep. Texts can be deleted, they are transient, ephemeral constructs. Those letters have remained with me, their A5 sheets, those warped envelopes, my name and address written so carefully on the front. They may have disappeared onto some refuse tip somewhere but they still exist in my head and still underline the importance of the hand written word for the creative soul, something I emphasise to students who come to my writing retreat in Portugal.

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