by Aram Saroyan
Rumors of The Letter Book have circulated through the poetry world since Larry Fagin published its first sentence in his mimeograph magazine Adventures in Poetry in 1971. Random House had published Saroyan’s previous books, Aram Saroyan (1968) and Pages (1969). The Letter Book has remained the only work—and the largest from the poet’s oeuvre—to elude publication.
The Letter Book comprises the entire content of a long letter Aram Saroyan received from his father, the novelist William Saroyan, in 1968. Aram composed the book by breaking up the text of the letter into discrete fragments and typing each in the center of a separate sheet of paper. The first sentence, published in Adventures in Poetry, yielded 16 recto pages of poetry; the whole letter yields 195 recto pages.
It’s just shy of half a century since I received this letter from my father during the summer of 1968, and it’s almost that long ago since I last read it. I was twenty-four at the time and my father about to turn sixty. It wasn’t the letter I wanted from him, and I made this book soon after reading it, in part as a way to look closely at what it was that frustrated me in it. Today I’m older than my father was at the time, in fact a few years older than he was when he died, and I see it differently. A self-portrait by a master prose stylist, the letter seems to turn back on itself, rerouting again and again only to arrive at the same destination. Looking at the words as if under a microscope, I’m struck today by the well-nigh musical motion of the repeated trajectory, and the self-chastening sincerity at its heart. –Aram Saroyan
This publication is dedicated to Larry Fagin and Tom Clark. It was printed and bound at The Source Unltd Print and Copy Shop in the East Village, New York. The archival boxes were made by Talas in Brooklyn. There are 29 copies in the edition: I–III and A–Z, all signed by the poet. I–III and A–E are hors commerce.