Austin poet Abe Louise Young and Chicago poet Alan Shefsky exchanged over 3,000 intimate, playful, often-rhyming letters and ephemera over thirteen years, until Shefsky's death in 2014.
The exhibit is available to travel throughout the U.S. to galleries, museums and schools. It displays 200 of those mailed pieces and offers a public letter-writing station filled with prompts where visitors have written over 400 letters.
This exhibit showcases the verbal play, joy and naked honesty of two poets who became life-long confidantes using words and art.
Kurt Vonnegut said once that you only need two things to be a writer: a) something to say, and b) someone to say it to. It is my great good fortune that Alan and I could be that someone for each other until – and through each step of – his death in 2014.
We tried to tell the whole truth. I hope that in seeing these letters, you feel the play and joy of language, and are moved to write a letter of your own.
by Abe Louise Young
1) Write a letter to yourself at age 5.
2) Write a letter to yourself at age 85. Tell yourself about the life you’ve had.
3) Write a short, appreciative letter to your mother or a short, angry letter to your mother.
4) Consider the night sky, moon and stars. Write a letter describing their qualities to them.
5) Write a letter to your house. Tell it what you love about it most.
6) Write a letter to your plumbing or electricity. Ask questions.
7) Write a letter of apology for something you have been thinking about with regret for more than ten years.
8) Write a Do Not Send letter to someone you are angry with: tell them everything they did and how it affected you.
Do not send the letter, but enjoy feeling better.
9) Write a letter to a future lover inviting them into your life.
10) Write a letter to a former lover wishing them well, or ill.
11) Write a letter to a future spouse thanking them.
12) Write a letter to a current spouse telling them something you find uniquely charming about their mannerisms.
13) Write a letter to a cherished cat, dog or chicken.
14) Write a letter to your race.
15) Write a letter to another race. Address race relations.
16) Write a letter to your gender, or to someone else’s gender.
17) Write a letter in the form of a grocery list.
18) Write a letter to a tree, or to a kind of trees.
19) Write a letter full of insults. Be vulgar, rude and awful.
20) Tell your body what you love about it.
21) Write a 1-paragraph letter to your first best friend.
22) Write a letter that works like soap.
23) Write a letter to someone born into very different circumstances and examine your differences.
24) Write a letter in three questions.
25) Write a letter that is one hour long.
26) Write a letter to a teacher you had in grades K-12.
27) Write a letter to a sport like swimming, soccer or skateboarding.
28) Write a letter to your teeth.
29) Write a letter that makes no sense.
30) Write a letter that contains breath, stars and soap.