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The Letter Q: Stacy Szymaszek

Written by

Stacy Szymaszek
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Year

2014

The Letter Q (Scholastic, 2012) is a collection of letters written by queer writers to their younger selves, making imaginative journeys into their pasts, and addressing the often difficult coming-of-age experiences of LGBTQ individuals. Inspired by its strength, bravery, and heart, Poets.org asked several poets to respond with their own letters to their younger selves.


Dear Stacy,

I hope this reaches you. You'll be surprised to hear that, as of the year 2012, you're still living. You live in a city that you don't yet know exists. I'll tell you more about it in a minute. Not to be too cryptic, but the news from here is very encouraging.

I want you to know that we all think you're coping really well. (We = your partner, your therapist, and your beagle.) Keep writing those letters to Dr. Paulina Kernberg's column in Dynamite Magazine. Write more of them, though you might try putting stamps on the envelopes. Your epistolary life will sustain you for a long time, but then distance will lose its appeal.

While I don't want to say anything that will undermine your own sense of discovery, there are some things you could become more conscious about which would make life more easily joyful for us, that is, you and I, in the future. I hug mortality in a way that eliminates any sense of the ordinary. I struggle to create new emotional outlets, since the performance of this one has been so steadfast. I know you think you are impervious to the effects of your Catholic schooling, but my copy of Masochism and Modern Man is more than gently worn. (You have cultivated an impressive library!) You're about to know something about yourself through a dream and your response to that dream will be a series of unexpected renunciations. I remember the pleasure you took in the athleticism of your body, its competence. You don't have to renounce that. You don't have to renounce care. I know that you'll know what I mean. Just try to hang on to some sense of the ordinary. It's not your fault that it's so untrustworthy.

Someday, I hope to have the stomach to read those green spiral notebooks that you are keeping. They are our first writings. You'll probably feel pretty mystified by this, but you become a poet. Your sense that you'll never make a lot of money is accurate. You have books published though they aren't widely read, but don't take that personally. You've received some thoughtful reviews from your peers, but a comment from Aunt Mary, an ally, by the way, seems to resonate the most: "If I didn't know you, I'd think this book was written by a psychotic person." Keep reading about the Presidents and telling mom that you're going to be famous.

You now live in the largest city in the USA and rarely feel different anymore, yet always at odds in public, slightly menaced. I could tell you where you work but it won't mean anything to you for some time. It's a reputable place, a lot of days it feels like a dream. Not that you ever allow yourself to have dreams. (Don't renounce them.) Maybe that's why it feels so remarkable, to still be living.

Love, Stacy

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Elizabeth Bishop and
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The Letter Q (Scholastic, 2012) is a collection of letters written by...