dead letter office: A New Imprint from punctum books and BABEL Working Group


The United States Postal Service started a dead letter office in 1825 to deal with undeliverable mail. In 2006 approximately 90 million undeliverable-as-addressed (UAA) items ended up in this office; where the rightful owners cannot be identified, the correspondence is destroyed to protect customer privacy, and enclosed items of value are removed.Items of value that cannot be returned are sold at auction, except for pornography and firearms. The auctions also occasionally include items seized by postal inspectors and property being retired from postal service.

~“Dead letter office,” Wikipedia entry

I am tired, Beloved,
of chafing my heart against
the want of you;
of squeezing it into little inkdrops,
And posting it.

~Amy Lowell, “The Letter”

Don’t fear anything for your letters, they are burnt one by one and I hope you do the same with mine.

~Camille Claudel

. . . it is a fine consolation among the absent that if one who is loved is not present, a letter may be embraced instead.

~Isidore of Seville

punctum books is pleased to announce a new imprint, in partnership with the BABEL Working Group:

dead letter office

dead letter office will publish small chapbook-style works, of approximately 20 to 40 pages, representing work that either has “gone nowhere” or will likely go nowhere, yet retains nevertheless little inkdrops of possibility and beauty and the darkling shape of a more full-bodied form and structure — to whit: the conference or seminar paper that will never become an article, the stray pages for a half-baked article that will never become the full-baked article, the half-finished chapter that will never make it into the book or the dissertation, the outlines and notes and semi-polished pages for manuscripts that are simply unfinish-able, the essay that can find no welcoming harbor (and that you half-suspect is ill-conceived but likely isn’t), the prospectus for the project you can never seem to find your way to start, the prolegomenon and preamble without follow-up, the stray children of your pen, the letter you wrote then tucked away in a drawer, fearing to mail it, or the one you sent and received again, with the stamp, “return to sender,” or which was never received or returned, that you perhaps lost (then re-found). We seek, also, experiments in whimsy, in over-reaching, in idle speculation, in prospecting for fool’s gold, in marking and then forgetting a path in a wild wood of visible darkness. In short, the dead letter office invites you to take those letters out of the drawer or shoebox, to re-visit and re-polish them, without worrying about conclusions or ultimate destinations, and send them to us.

We welcome, as always, experiments in form and style, especially with forms that are outmoded (whether the breviary or the telegram, the leechbook or liner notes). Send queries, with a brief outline of your “dead letter,” to Eileen Joy and Nicola Masciandaro at:

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