and Strength of Lace
& James Wright
Edited by Anne Wright
Graywolf: 102 pp., $14
Leslie Marmon Silko and James Wright met at a writers' conference in 1975 in Michigan. Wright wrote to Silko three years later, telling her how much he liked her book "Ceremony." Silko wrote back with stories of her Laguna family in Arizona and New Mexico; of the rooster in her frontyard, her horses and the western landscape. Wright, who lived in New York with his wife, Anne (who edited this book), spent a year traveling in Europe and sent Silko letters from France and Italy.
After a few exchanges, Silko began writing delicately about her divorce and the custody battle that left her missing her young children. Wright wrote to her about his own divorce and the son he felt he'd lost in the process. They sent each other work and wrote about passages in the work that deeply affected them -- the best kind of literary criticism.
There is a gentleness in their correspondence that seems otherworldly and beautiful. They met one more time, on Wright's deathbed in a New York hospital where he was dying of cancer.
Their brief correspondence, from 1978 to 1980, is a testament to the power of words to form bonds between the writers. "I treasure the words you write," Silko wrote in a letter to Wright that arrived after his death. "Your name most of all. But no matter if written words are seldom because we know, Jim, we know."