Dear All, please carry on writing letters. Yours, the Professor: Launch of The Letters Page journal

Academics create journal to encourage people to keep record of loves and losses

The art of letter writing may be under daily assault from email and Twitter’s brutal abbreviations, but a new literary journal hopes to buck the trend by encouraging people to put pen to paper.

Academics at the University of Nottingham are to publish The Letters Page, a compendium of letters submitted by ordinary people that detail love, loss and the everyday trivia of daily life.

The journal – edited by Jon McGregor, who is the author of the critically acclaimed If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things and So Many Ways to Begin, and a professor of creative writing at the university – is just the latest contribution to the letter’s literary fightback.

Simon Garfield’s new book, To the Letter: A Journey Through a Vanishing World, published next month, traces the history of the letter from the Roman world onwards and delves into great correspondences, from Cicero and Petrarch to Jane Austen and Ted Hughes. A compilation of Shaun Usher’s Letters of Note website, which has won plaudits for collecting some of the world’s most moving, funny and inspiring correspondence, will also be released in book form.

“Letters are the oldest form of writing, and a key part of literary culture,” said Professor McGregor. “Through The Letters Page, I hope we can explore what letter writing means to writers and readers today. I’m very excited to be launching the first issue.”

The Letters Page took shape when Professor McGregor started a blog to explore themes for a new literary journal. He invited responses in the form of handwritten letters sent through the post – receiving missives from Canada and the US, Spain, France, Germany, Cyprus and the Republic of Ireland.

The best of the correspondence, published in the first journal, include letters sent home from abroad, letters from prison, letters of complaint as well as thanks and pleading. There are letters that carry news, expressions of love and a sense of time and place.

Professor McGregor said: “Most of the letters we received were legible, most of the letters had something interesting to say about letter writing; a select few stood out, I felt, as fine pieces of writing regardless of form.”

Submissions are now open for the second issue, loosely based around the theme of pen pals. But the editors admit that restricting the definition of a “letter” to a physical object is increasingly anachronistic.

With the Royal Mail reporting a  9 per cent annual slump in letter volumes, the journal will now accept letters regardless of form, including those generated digitally and sent by email.

Permanent news: pages of pleasure

A letter posted on the website by the Irish author Colum McCann:

Dear reader,

Knut Hamsun said that in old age we are like a batch of letters: “We are no longer in the passing, we have arrived.”

And yet it is in the arrival that we remain. What a joy to write a letter without any idea of where it will end up, a letter that is everywhere and nowhere at the same time – a piece of virtual intimacy.

You have no need to respond. Your response arrives in the act of reading. It’s such a pity that it will not fall gently through the letterbox. I love and have loved the art of letters, and yet I have forgotten it too.

When I was younger in Dublin, the postman was the closest thing I had to a metronome. The letterbox flapped and you could tell the weight of the news by the sound of it against the carpet.

Years later, when I went on a long cycling journey, I would pick up letters from “General Delivery” in Amarillo, Portland, San Francisco. What a wonderful feeling it was to walk into the post office in pure anonymity to find a letter waiting there.

Letters, when carried, they are a permanent news. I miss them.

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat