Letter from Mel Vito
I like reading small press magazines—all human life is there. After a
while I find I've read so many contributions by some authors that they're
like old friends, the kind who send letters only when there's bad news. The
frequency of heart-rending incidents makes me wonder whether tragedy triggers
writing or whether writers are prone to disasters.
I feel sorry for you Web magazine editors; editors of printed magazines
know authors' changes of address, and from subscription cheques can see
joint accounts become single ones. The biographical notes you supply say
so little - concerned readers like me can piece together these broken lives
only by subscribing to many magazines. I pick one author (Tim Love) but I
could have chosen many others like him who have chosen to share their
personal tragedies in this way, unburdening themselves gradually, trying not
to upset readers too much.
In "Autumn and After" (Summit 2) his wife died when they were childless. We
read how he decided not to marry again, instead going to India where, in
"New Life" (Dream 13), his mother died. Eventually he does remarry, but
"Taking Mark this time" (Staple) tragically describes his wife's death when
their son was only 4.
A sonnet "Wither the Love" then appeared in Poetry Nottingham. Trauma can
induce formalism as the only way to keep the emotions under control (see
Dana Gioia). Sometimes though, mannerism is sloughed off in an attempt to
reach the heart of things through understatement (Douglas Dunn). As
related in the free-verse "Love at First Sight" (Smith's Knoll 11) his new
wife gave birth to a daughter who died before she was an hour old. This is
the kind of tragedy from which women in particular never quite recover.
So it comes as little surprise that his wife deserted him and their
6 year-old son in "The Big Climb" (Staple).
It would be easy to attribute blame to the author for driving successive
spouses to despair, but as with Ted Hughes, it may be that there's something
in his temperament that fragile women find attractive. Again, and even more
remarkably, he recovers only to be dealt another cruel blow - "Late Night
Shopping" (Staple) chronicles life with an autistic child. Perhaps the genes
that help a writer produce such diversity of writing also manifest themselves
in a less helpful gene diversity in offspring.
To the first-time reader his follow-up, "Rejection" (Envoi), would seem to
be about failed submissions (it's encouraging to see that even he gets
them!), but our worst fears were confirmed when in a 2004 prizewinner
("Being Open" on the Cambridge Writers web site) we saw him sink into a
private hell of alcohol and inflatable dolls.
Now, just a few months later, we read in his biographical notes that he's
married with 2 sons; triumphant confirmation to all us writers that we
should never give up. I wish him luck.
Mel Vito, Cambridge, UK