Review,  Culture,  New Release,  Writing,  Zine

Letters to Lovers zine issue two invites us into the complex world of human emotions

Letters to Lovers zine is a print project that contains a deep passion for the written word, be it through art, poetry or the personal letters submitted to Editor Veruschka Haas. You’ll also find photography and music to listen to – but the name of the zine drives the personal connection we have with the contributors and their lives. Some of the people hide their identities, an understandable feature of a zine that hosts deep, powerful messages to their intended audiences. The letters themselves contain prose that might be towards ’lovers past, present and future’, as the zine’s back cover reads. But this also includes lovers who never were, almost peering into the diaries of the people writing them. Similarly, we never know if the intended people ever received the words – creating a sense of longing for the writer but also adds a layer of uncertainty whilst reading.

Issue two follows a successful debut from Letters to Lovers and holds onto the creative connection we have with contributors and through the format itself. The yellow coloured theme continues across both issues, whilst illustrator Aya Mohamed has front cover duties – presenting a cartoon-esque cityscape on issue one, similar to those found on The New Yorker. Issue two however steps into a more architectural style with detailed linework to illustrate a scene of two empty benches underneath a shelter, lined by trees. The writers may envision this scene whilst writing to the ‘lover’ and what they would say if they had the chance to. Not comparing this to a rom-com movie scene, these letters emerge from an emotive place and Letters to Lovers showcase them in a respectful, thoughtful manner. We’re even invited to send a message via the postcard included in the back of the zine.

© Letters to Lovers
© Letters to Lovers
© Letters to Lovers
© Letters to Lovers

Not forgetting the more visual pieces, issue two continues to host artwork from contributors. Sometimes intimate (see Nuria Castro’s piece with accompanying black and white photograph of an embrace) but also sometimes revealing (see k’s ‘Things I can(’t) let go’ photo spread), each piece is as individual as the next. In the debut issue we saw handmade collage pieces such as ‘The Lighthouse’ by Rachel Marie Cleary, to handwritten notes on rice wrappers by Ava Grace. Artefacts such as these pieces offer tangible snippets into the lives of the makers and owners. Just as the letters offer, readers can take each piece at their own speed – starting from the end, middle or the beginning of the zine; the order is for you to decide. One of the larger pieces in issue two sits at page 40 and runs for multiple spreads. Named ‘The Distance’ by Sofiya Benedict, the letter is punctuated by meeting details for the online conferencing software Zoom – noting the unique URLs and passwords to access them. ”I want to map my own thoughts and give you a compass,” they write, offering to help the intended reader to navigate towards their thoughts.

"The mystery behind the people, emotions and scenarios keep us guessing. Letters to Lovers doesn’t reveal their secrets, but in return we hold a piece of the emotional puzzle."

Stuart Williams, Owner of Overleaf

The middle spread of the latest issue is as much about longing as it is about the clear physical distance between the writer and the recipient. ”Our rituals help us survive,” they write after a second Zoom meeting, whilst towards the end they own up to the distance having a larger impact. ”I don’t like that you’re so far away,” they admit. We take note of their daily Zoom calls and that requirement of technology to stay connected – like so many of us on a daily basis. Navigating the oceans with the help of conferencing applications is a huge part of life for long distance relationships, and we see the impact of that within pieces such as this. Opening issue two however we see a QR code following the Editor’s letter, an interactive element that asks us to scan. ‘Nostalgia’ by J.M. opens to an audio piece, presumably by the maker – adding a taste of what we can expect in this latest issue. Without revealing its content, the single audio track hosts a similar reverence towards playlists that lovers in movies give to each other in the form of a tape, prior to the Spotify age. Now of course we are able to send music to each other in an instant, anywhere in the world. However the meaning has never changed and this is something explored by J.M.

Diving into the accessible layout of Letters to Lovers, we can’t help but note the large amount of pieces spanning its 71 pages. From the larger long distance piece to one page poems, they each offer an opaque view into the lives of the makers. Delving into past lives, it was the letters of Van Gogh that inspired the creation of the zine. In issue one’s opening remarks, Editor Veruschka wrote, ”I have found myself fascinated with the genre, fascinated with the idea of reading something so personal and oftentimes emotional. Frederick Wentworth’s letter to Anne in Persuasion stands as the peak of romance to me until this very day and I once devoured Vincent van Gogh’s letters to his brother within a single day.” Letters, notes and the tangible written word are arguably a forgotten art in the digital age, leaving the door open to a quick Whatsapp message instead. But letters offer a mode of transport that compels the reader to relate on different levels of intensity. This is how Letters to Lovers becomes more than a physical presence – moving from an A5 printed zine to a seat beside the contributors whilst they reveal parts of their thoughts.

Emotionally driven by its pieces, Letters to Lovers curates these human emotions and treats them with the respect they deserve. The emotions within the zine change like the weather and we can only guess how the creator felt making the piece at the time to how they would feel now. Stepping into their shoes we can feel a slither of their sadness, loneliness or sunny sensibilities. ”I laugh alone and blow dandelions for myself,” Sergio writes in their piece ‘You never took a good picture of me’, leaving us at the mercy of their position within the story told. But we also view Tatiana’s painting ’Oops’ that depicts a face shrouded by flowers with text overlaid reading ’Now and then I think of you. Oops.’ There is an air of mystery due to the face being partly hidden, but this is a notable feature of reading the zine. The mystery behind the people, emotions and scenarios keep us guessing. Letters to Lovers doesn’t reveal their secrets, but in return we hold a piece of the emotional puzzle.

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Where to buy

Here are the stockist websites for this magazine title. These may include social media links only.

Letters to Lovers – Etsy
Letters to Lovers – Instagram

Correct at time of writing.

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