Nordpolen Journal: 6/1/13- postcards to influential strangers 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19… and an answer!

Nordpolen Journal: 6/1/13- postcards to influential strangers 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19… and an answer!

San Francisco, California
June 1, 2013

Please forgive my tardiness with posts,  but I’ve been busy. I tend to make my projects complicated. It all started way back when I first used to decorate white shoeboxes with felt tip pens… every inch of space on the box HAD to be covered… and not just in a color, but with drawings, and each one detailed. When I was 12 I set out to color in the entire D&D monster manual, one monster at a time. I made it up to the letter D. I still have it…. maybe someday I will finish it. So this project, to write postcards to all 15 of my creative influences***… well it might have gone the way of many of my projects and about 6/8 ths of the way in I would have lost interest and moved on to something else… all the while thinking I’d come back to the thing I’d started and finish it.  But today I sat down and completed all 15 so that I can, with a clear conscience, move on.

A couple of things happened during the last few days that have made this project really worthwhile: the first is that I discovered that there is a difference between an idea and its execution, and that difference is the work. It’s easy to have ideas, and it takes another kind of energy to carry them through. The interesting part to me is that when I sat down to write each of these postcards, I had no idea really what I was going to say. I also had a restrictive space in which to write it.  For those people on my list who are dead, I found my mind freed up in a certain way to write what I wanted, without fear of presumption or judgment, which made those cards easier to write, and of course more about myself than about the person I was writing to. In a way, most communication is like that… since you can’t get inside another person’s head, you have to take an educated guess at what makes them tick. Those parallels you draw between yourself and another person’s experience is the heart of empathy… and empathy is a tool a lot like bats using echolocation… you blindly bounce your own voice off what’s around you and try to get an idea of what’s there by listening to what comes back. What you receive is your own perceptions rearranged by the other person’s shape. It’s sometimes uncannily accurate, and sometimes misses the target entirely.

When you get writers and musicians in your echolocative beam, something even stranger happens: you can, in a way, get inside their heads. But you get into the part of their heads that they broadcast, that they set free into the world. And we all know that the things we put out into the world are both deep expressions of ourselves, and shallow ones… they represent only fractions of the whole human being, and ephemeral moments. This is why the written word, or the recorded word, is so powerful… unlike the ephemeral nature of me whispering to you in person, where my thoughts are free to bloom and dissipate, and my mind is allowed to change and grow and reconsider, we treat things that are written down as authoritative, as unchanging, as evidence of our emotional triumphs and crimes.

What people forget about what is written down, and what is recorded and duplicated again and again, is that it is dead. Like a person who has passed away, it is no longer a viable, unstable thing in and of itself… its self has been abdicated for interpretation. Things that are written/recorded belong to everyone, whether the person responsible likes it or not, because whatever happens to it, once it becomes static, once it cannot shift with the shifting nature of reality,  it becomes subject to debate, theft, reinterpretation, repurposing, recycling, mimicry, defamation, censorship… the property of everyone and the possession of no one.

So in writing these postcards, I thought about the person on the other end and fought through the desire to censor myself almost before I even began… because I know that the person I am writing to, whom I’ve never met, is not “knowable” through their work alone. What I am writing to, really, is myself… even though in my heart of hearts I am reaching out to make contact with the facet of the person on the other end that brought some part of myself to the surface. All I could really do was keep in my mind the ultimate purpose… to send a brief note of thanks to a person I felt deeply affected by… to let them know that I, too, am a blind bat chasing moths by the sound of their fluttering.

I think I might keep going with this… not here on the blog, but on my own. There is something about sending these things out into the world, without the need for anything in return, that feels right… it is so unlike what we’re trained to do all day every day, which is to do things just to get something we need to have in order to survive.

And that leads me to the second thing that happened this week: one of my influential strangers (#5) wrote back! Marvin Kaye, now the editor of Weird Tales, sent me two free copies of the magazine, and a thank you note of his own. This was an unexpected kindness, and a kind of ping back from the void, which turns out to still be able to deliver illegible postcards!  (Scroll to the bottom to see Mr. Kaye’s answer.)

And here are the rest of the postcards from the project:

***and I just realized that I can’t count. There are 19 .

10. Neil Gaiman:

Neil Gaiman-front

Neil Gaiman

11. Susanna Clarke:

Susanna Clarke

Susanne Clarke

12. Virtual Boy:

Virtual Boy

Virtual Boy

13. Camille Flammarion:

Camille Flammarion

Camille Flammarion

14. Robert Smith:

Robert Smith

Robert Smith

15. Charles Fort:

Charles Fort

Charles Fort

16. Rod Serling:

Rod Serling

Rod Serling

17. Tim Burton:

Tim Burton

Tim Burton

18. Peter Murphy:

Peter Murphy

Peter Murphy

19. William Butler Yeats:

William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats

And to me from Marvin Kaye….


Nordpolen Journal: 5/24/13- postcards to influential strangers 6a, 6b, 7 and 8

Nordpolen Journal: 5/24/13- postcards to influential strangers 6a, 6b, 7 and 8

San Francisco, California
Friday, May 24, 2013

The next four postcards to people on my list of 15:

6(a)- Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

Samuel Taylor Coleridge-(a)Samuel Taylor Coleridge- (a2)6(b)- Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

Samuel Taylor Coleridge- (b)Samuel Taylor Coleridge- (b2)

7. Leonard Nimoy:

Leonard NimoyLeonard Nimoy

8. T.S. Eliot:

T.S. EliotT.S. Eliot

Nordpolen Journal: 5/19/13- Postcards to influential strangers 4 and 5

Nordpolen Journal: 5/19/13- Postcards to influential strangers 4 and 5

San Francisco, California
Sunday May 19, 2013

The next two postcards to people on my list of 15:

I’ve found it difficult not to expand my list over the past few days, but I’m resisting that. It’s enough for me to complete these fifteen.

I’m open to suggestions from any of you who read this, as to what to do with the postcards I’ve written to people who are now dead. I don’t want to keep them, I want to send them out into the world somehow, but I’d like to find a really good way to do it. If you think of something, please leave me a comment with your suggestions. My ears are open.

4. Anais Nin:

Anais Nin

Anais Nin- text

5. Marvin Kaye: Okay, to my delight, after writing four postcards to people who are dead, I discovered that Marvin Kaye is still kicking. He is the current editor of Weird Tales Magazine. He was born in 1938, and oddly, one of the postcards I had sitting around is postmarked 1938. Seems appropriate, if not downright synchronous. When I sat down to write it, I suddenly became nervous. This postcard will actually get mailed, and to know there is a person on the other end who might, or might not, respond means that I’m really risking something by sending it. But, since Mr. Kaye is an editor of weird stories, I might have a bat’s chance in hell of being understood. On the other hand, he might not appreciate the repurposed post card and alarmingly small scrawl on it. That, however, is none of my concern. I can only offer my thanks, I can’t make him take them.

Marvin Kaye

Marvin Kaye- text

Nordpolen Journal: 5/17/13- postcards to influential strangers 2 and 3

Nordpolen Journal: 5/17/13- postcards to influential strangers 2 and 3

Two more from my list of 15:

2. Jacques Cousteau:

I found a postcard that someone had already written on. It was postmarked in 1976, when I was 7 years old, about the time I became aware of Messr. Cousteau and his boat, Calypso. Stamps were only 9 cents then, and grammar on stamps was not so great. The tea lid is from my friend Frances, who told me it was meant for me. It says:

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and sky,
and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.”

John Masefield



3. Gustav Doré


The Council of the Rats, Gustav Dore

Nordpolen Journal: 5/16/13- postcards to influential strangers

Nordpolen Journal: 5/16/13- postcards to influential strangers

San Francisco, California

Today I sat down and made a list of strangers to whom I owe a fragment of my creative self. It is through their trap doors, attics, belfries, squats, closets, crawlspaces, choruses, windows, vistas, wormholes, timeslips, floorboards, rumors, hijinks, trysts, pain, curiosity, and difficulties that I have been given breathtaking glimpses of other worlds.

I would like to send each of them a postcard. Why a postcard? Because it has all the brevity of a text message, and all the fading, duct-taped-together, institutional-beige romance of the post office.  Constraint, when pouring one’s heart out a stranger, is a good thing, and if it must be imposed by a small window of blank cardstock, fully exposed for anyone to read, then that makes it both more a public declaration of love, and (hopefully) a less purple or redundant one, since I have very little space to write, and I can’t hit the “delete” key when I fuck up.

Also, I feel a little sad that sending physical objects to people with things written on them as a form of communication is now considered passe enough to be arty. I’d rather think of it as tossing a fistful of unrequited love letters into the machine, to see if I get any pingbacks.

I happen to have, in the upper-right hand drawer of my desk, a bunch of postcards I’ve been collecting for something. And this is now that something. They range from 60 years old to printed this year. Some are quite ugly, which is why I kept them:


And here’s the list, in the order that they came into my mind:


1. Susanna Clarke
2. Neil Gaiman
3. Siouxsie Sioux
4. Virtual Boy
5. Edgar Allan Poe
6. T.S. Eliot
7. Charles Fort
8. Robert Smith
9. Leonard Nimoy
10. Jack Webb/Rod Serling
11. Tim Burton
12. Gustav Doré
13. Jacques Cousteau
14. Marvin Kaye
15. Peter Murphy
16. Anais Nin
17. Camille Flammarion
18. William Butler Yeats

Now other than one or two I am not entirely sure of, I count 11 people on this list that are dead, but I’m not going to let that stop me.

Here’s the first postcard, to Edgar Allan Poe. I’ll have to figure out how to address it tomorrow.



This Terrible Symmetry: a review of Helsinki, by Peter Richards

This Terrible Symmetry: a review of Helsinki, by Peter Richards

by Peter Richards

I rarely have a viscerally bad reaction to a book, but when it comes to connecting with a reader, I find it frustrating when surrealism is confused with, well, confusion. Other reviewers describe this book as containing an “exuberant grief,” but in my review this month in Gently Read Literature, I argue that there is a way to use surrealism in poetry to heighten and clarify awareness, particularly when writing out of grief -T.S. Eliot did it in The Wasteland– but Richards does not sustain it in Helsinki.

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