Curses to people who sign letters with their first names only!
I've spent all week trying to work my way through Elaine Feinstein's archives and I've hit a whole batch of letters that are written by people who have not used their surnames.
It's sort of fun because it's like detective work. I have to try and find bits in the letters that will lead me to understand who's written them. Lot's of it's guess work for a while. Like today I found a letter from somebody writing about poems in PR. I had to turn to the trusty book that lists all magazines and small presses in Britain that Stella's letting me use. I found a few options, but Poetry Review seemed best. Then I had to google around the editors that it could have been and confirm as best I could who wrote the letter.
I actually think I'm getting pretty good at this, and it's a very good way of getting all the people and their links stuck in my head. In fact I'm not sure there's any better way to learn about things than trying to work them out yourself from fragments.
The best thing I've found in the archives so far is a shaped-poem my Michael Horivitz about a cat and how difficult it is to draw one. Then by his signature he's drawn a cat, it's a sort of stylishly rubbish picture that I absolutely adore. That's probably not the best thing, but it's the one that makes me smile the most.
There's also a postcard that's made from a sugar puffs packet. It reads like it's written by two people, neither of whom have any regard for punctuation. Neither of them signed it, but after about twenty minutes digging around I discovered that one of them was the poet and film-maker Piero Heliczer. I am now crazy in love with Piero, who is intriguing in every possible way.