by Amy Newman
Persea Books, 2011
80 pages / $15.00 buy from Powell’s
1. Dear Editor contains cover letters from Amy Newman to an unnamed editor or editors, spread across three seasons. Most of the letters follow the typical format of writer correspondence, beginning with the word “please.”
2. Writers are expected to treat editors with professional respect, particularly if that magazines ends with the word Review.
3. The pejorative connotations of the word “submission” have been investigated elsewhere, but Newman revises the process. Submission is a form of prayer. Waiting occurs.
4. Writers need editors. Editors need writers. Some people are both.
5. The manuscript being submitted is titled X = Pawn Capture.
6. Newman does not include any direct poems from this hypothetical collection, and for good reason: the project is contextualized, not concrete. The collection appears to be “a lyrical study of chess,” or not.
7. Saints appear throughout Dear Editor.
8. Saints are abnormal. Such is their beauty.
9. Some saints who appear in this book: Saint Berry (not real), Saint Lucy (real, but the letter writer’s grandmother claimed that, on her wedding day, “Lucy came in and winked behind the altar, stuck out her tongue”). St. Brigid of Ireland. “Isn’t faith a kind of belief that is never satisfied?” Euphrosyne.
10. Is the letter writer Amy Newman? Amy Newman signs the letters. Her name is on the front of the book.
11. Are writers ever their real selves?
12. The act of writing one’s biographical note in third-person must affect other elements of life. What is more vain than thinking others will care about your words?
13. Prayer is an act of vanity. Why should God listen to you?
14. Why chess?
15. Because the letter writer “picture[s] the chessboard as the field on which my grandparents first made love.”
16. Perhaps chess is not even real, instead “a trick my own grandfather played on me while my grandmother cried in the kitchen into an apron I myself have invented for the purposes of this story.”
17. Is God a trick?
18. “Because it is not our privilege to understand the world, which is shown to us in such irritating dimensions and swatches, like the scratchy tweeds I would have preferred to the wrinkled handkerchiefs of my upbringing.”
19. The Catholicism of Amy Newman the letter writer is one of doubt and superstition and accepting the Host “as a favor to my grandparents.” Her grandmother says “the wafer is not a Holy hors d’oeuvre it is a sure piece of evidence and proof He is with us.”
20. If all writing is a form of confession, than is the cover letter the opening prayer?
21. Confession is a letter to God, stamped by a priest.
22. Editors are not God/god/g-d/gods.
23. But isn’t this book about cover letters to editors?
24. No. It is much, much better than that.
25. “The one thing you have to understand is how my grandmother’s hand felt against my neck as she discussed the merits of each individual saint on those afternoons and evenings when the light in the windows hesitated across the aspects of our house.”