to an unknown audience
Embarque/  /August 25, 2011


This here column, a once-noble experiment, was founded in May, 2002, on two conceits: the first, that personal missives, in an intimate voice, could be written to a general public with unknown tastes and characteristics—perhaps thereby refuting, or confirming, the principle that to write well you must "know your audience." The experiment was to discover whether an audience would materialize, yet remain forever unknown, or whether one would gradually identify itself, building real intimacy over an immense electrical chasm.

In short, to test the fact that, while nobody knows you're a dog on the Internet, neither do you know who it is that's reading your doggy exclamations.

To the author's immense gratification, a tiny but meaningful audience did materialize, accreting like raindrops around trivial particles of dust.

Now, more than nine years on, this mouthpiece has long outlived its usefulness. A series of major life shifts rendered its author confused and unfocused. And the voice strained with age.

The second conceit arose from the observation that poetry's "you" means either God or the beloved, and that these two could be mixed together into an ever-unknown motivating force. And well, this conceit became utterly falsified. The mystery of the beloved gave way to lucid dullness as adolescent yearning gave way to adult responsibility and determination. And the cheeky agnosticism, which allowed for auras in magical nature, eventually surrendered to rationalist skepticism.

So the present blog is no longer a source of inspiration and energy, nor a communication channel to an interesting, interested audience—and solely because of its own rhetorical collapse. So rather than press it on like an obsoleted milkman, I prefer to refit it as a museum of its former self, acknowledging the progress we have made into a new world without losing the past.

Letters’ tireless editors are now at work curating past posts, condensing the nine-year column down into a representative sample of the most worthy posts.

Starting this week, the regular posts and presentation of the blog will disappear, and we'll start the retrospective: each month, roughly, we'll republish a year's worth of curated posts, with an eye toward remembering and appreciating the best of what this column has produced.

The author remains energetic, and will be found elsewhere. But Letters to an Unknown Audience is done, its voice quenched. Do not pray only but be vigilant and set your hand to the work.


Since you clearly aren't in the mood for a quarrel, I'll keep my disagreement with your self-critique to myself and instead just thank you for the many years of wonderful undicorrespondence.

—posted by Ray Davis at August 25, 2011 10:59 PM

Ray, thank you so much, for your kind words and for your careful readership.

I'm afraid the time has come. For the record, self-criticism is not the motivating factor; distraction and a lack of momentum constitute that.

The Author will be back, in some form or another, elsewhere on the World Wide Web and elsewhere on Earth—"I'll go on."

—posted by The Author at August 25, 2011 11:09 PM
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