The distinguishing feature of this poetry collection is not, in fact, the poems—though they are good—but the book’s genesis. As Tishon and Meissner explain in the introduction: “…we’ve been friends for roughly five years. In those five years we’ve shared countless letters. These letters aren’t letters in the true sense of the word. They are poems….” Born from the intimacy of friendship and given to the world by Tishon’s own Well&Often Press, The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You opens the authors’ lives to their new friends—all of their readers.
Despite my initial concern about the continuity of a co-authored collection, I was impressed by the poems’ overlap and by the collection’s structure, which hops between the authors’ poems as each addresses familial loves, old friends, and memories of early homes. Each has stronger works and lesser. Meissner’s “First Loves (For Alec),” the only prose poem in the collection, captures the confusion of childhood loves (she quietly reveals that Alec is her cousin), their ambiguities, and their persistence:
Under the moon I’ve heard the sharp-toothed blue fish of your cries after too much drink and the girls who you broke and broke you. How I can’t stop dreaming of that impure man beneath a willow tree and all the ways I rot inside when over and over again he leaves and leaves and leaves, like my fate is on repeat, my face in the mirror has a yellow sheen and I pull fat away from my body with my fingers—just two of the reasons I am sure no breathing man could love me.