INTRODUCTION
Letters stop time—even old they’re always news. “Letters Lift Spirits,” declares
one vintage postage stamp, another “Letters Preserve Memories,” and a third,
with reverence, “Letters Mingle Souls.”
Love, H is all this as well as a story with a backstory.
Thematically, collections from women emphasize friendship, and a lengthy
correspondence unfolds not just a friendship but a sympathetic intimacy, an
I and a You.
So who will you meet here? A couple of plainspoken women, avant- garde
by nature, not analysis. Expansive, introspective, reportorial, confessional,
two participants in a gradual redefinition.
In 1960, when we began to write, like most women then Helene Dorn and I
were married with children. What set us apart were our men and our context:
the Beat / Black Mountain / San Francisco / New York bohemia of that time,
the Kerouac Ginsberg O’Hara deKooning nexus that has had such a lasting
impact on American culture. The place I call Boyland. Each of us had arrived
there with something in mind—she to paint, I to write—and then foundered
on love, on the hardships and distractions of marriage and motherhood. Still,
we were taking it all in, putting things by.
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I’d come home from work to a party. In the group with my husband, LeRoi
Jones, was a man I didn’t recognize, and—surprise!—a woman. In 1960, at six
on a cold December evening, the women I knew were either home with their
kids or warming up at the Cedar Bar.
But here in my house was a tall, beautiful blonde who swooped down, re-
lieved me of my bag of groceries, and with her free hand fingered the fabric of
my coat. My outer garment, that is—a poncho I’d pieced together from multi-
colored woolen samples.
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