Tuesday August 30th I arrived home late and discovered I’d received a postcard. My initial reaction was one of joy and confusion as it appeared to be a postcard from Europe. Who did I know that was traveling in Europe? I turned the card over and read the following:
Samuel Menashe received and appreciated your touching letter before he died on August 22nd. He was very pleased a poet who loved the French language occupied the apartment next to his longtime ”lair”. There will be a memorial service in late October and Fred will be aware of their location.
Samuel Menashe was, for me, a guiding light and source of great inspiration. A poet who occupied the apartment next to my own for over 50 years, I moved in just as he had already been relocated to a home for assisted living. Though I never had the opportunity to meet him, I felt a close kinship with my poet neighbor.
A few days after I’d moved in I read an advertisement in the front lobby that listed free furniture. I called to inquire and found that my neighbor Fred, a friend of Samuel’s, was helping empty Samuel’s apartment. Fred led me into Samuel’s place, a rare glimpse into what the original layout of the apartments used to look like before they had been refurnished, and said I could have any of the furniture I liked. The only thing I was in need of was a desk. As chance would have it, I was able to recover the desk of a poet and save it from what certainly would have been a curbside funeral.
Shortly after I resolved that I must start up a correspondence with Samuel and wrote him a draft of a letter in February. However, I didn’t get around to sending out the letter until May; all the while thinking I should simply drop in and say hello. Alas, I was only able to introduce myself to Samuel briefly through my letter, and must content myself with the fact that at least we knew of each other’s existence. Though we never did meet, I feel honored to look after his desk and have some of his original type-written poems. I can only hope that my letter was able to bring to him some small fraction of the surprise and joy I felt in knowing he was my neighbor, and knowing about his life.
I bought a fresh notebook to use specifically for letter writing; the first letter in the book was addressed to Samuel. The gift of Samuel’s desk and my desire to write letters to him were the first sources of motivation that pushed me to begin writing this blog. The following is a excerpt of what should have been Until A Letter’s first post.
February 18, 2011
Hello, though we never got the chance to meet, I live in the apartment next to yours. One of the reasons I liked the apartment so much when I looked at it was because my roommate shared a charming anecdote about how she was playing the piano and you knocked on the door to ask her to turn the music up so that you could hear it better.
I was looking forward to being your neighbor because I am a writer too. Initially I wrote poetry and hoped to become good enough to call myself a poet. I went to college and studied literature and French. While at school I took several creative writing courses, mostly poetry. However, the last course I took was fiction writing, which I have come to prefer in lieu of poetry. Nevertheless I consider poetry my base. I love the attention that must be given to the weight of each word and the way words look and are structured on the page. I think I will always value poetry about prose.
At present I try to read and write as much as possible, and travel whenever I have the time and money. Though I’ve traveled and lived abroad quite a bit, I never can seem to get enough.
I wonder if I might visit with you and chat bout writing, or poems, or whatever we happen to find interesting. If not then I would be glad to simply be pen pals if you’d prefer. En attendant, I have enclosed a poem for you by one of my favorite poets, Frank O’Hara.