The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman

9781843915362_p0_v1_s192x300Denis Theriault’s The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman surprised me.  

 Bilodo, a Montreal postman, secretly opens other people’s mail before delivery, and lives vicariously through their hand written letters.  When he opens the letters between Ségolène, a young woman in Guadeloupe (a French territory in the Caribbean) and  Grandpré, a local professor and poet, he is immediately caught up in the exchange.  

Anticipation of the letters offers Bilodo a respite from his dreary life, but when the poet is killed in a car accident, Bilodo despairs.  To keep the epistolary exchange going, Bilodo takes a leave of absence from his job as a postman.  He assumes Grandpré’s identity, moves into his apartment, and continues to write to Ségolène.  

Since the poet has only written in haiku, with Ségolène responding in kind, Bilodo must learn how to write this traditional Japanese poem.    At first, his attempts are pedestrian but he improves as the story continues.   As the letters fly back and forth, growing more and more ardent, two incidents threaten to interfere in the intrigue and the budding love affair. The first is resolved, but the second was quite a surprise.

The book is short and compelling and the ending is a shock that I did not see coming.  Although the book has been compared to work by Julian Barnes (possibly for the strong impact through a short work), the ending reminded me of Kafka.  

Originally published in 2008 in Canada, and recently republished by UK’s Hesperus Press, the book is not in my library’s collection.  Since the book is a testament to writing actual letters, it seemed ironic I could only find the ebook version.

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman is worth looking for and reading: I enjoyed it.  It may inspire you to sit right down and write a letter, as you consider which persona you will use to wield your pen.

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Try Writing a Haiku

poetry-clip-art-1Do you remember a well-meaning teacher assigning a haiku for homework – maybe to instill a love of poetry. The products often resembled Ogden Nash poems – lots of nonsense but without his wit.

Alan Feuer’s “The 3 Lines of the Haiku Train Make 61 Stops in Manhattan” – online at Haiku Challenge in the Sunday New York Times – offers a short review of the style and samples from New Yorkers who participated in the paper’s challenge to write about the city in the three-line verse. Poets wrote about Central Park, the subway, Times Square… My favorite came from an online reader in Dallas –  Sharon Cohen wrote:

Union Square Market
Blueberries for ten dollars
New York City blues

Thinking about the city I live in now, I am working on a verse to celebrate the end of national poetry month – ocean, sun, surfers – not that easy to create three lines with 5,7,5 beat – and a punch line at the end of the 17 syllables. The New York Times offers  “a quick 101 guide on writing a haiku”:

• Only three lines.
• First line must be five syllables.
• Second line must be seven syllables.
• The third line must be five syllables.
• Punctuation and capitalization are up to you.
• It doesn’t have to rhyme.
• It must be original.

Have you tried writing one?

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