LOVE LETTERS PROJECT
The Substation Love Letters Project was initiated in an effort to merge literature and graphic design, and for The Substation to connect with the community through new forms of literary art. Each year, 12 writers were invited to contribute a poem each, responding to a theme based on aspects of love. The poems were revealed one at a time, as monthly love letters, and were produced as a series of free, limited edition postcards and presented on a specially designed microsite. Curated by the poet, Cyril Wong, throughout all five series of postcards, the project was launched in 2010 and ended its run in July 2015.
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The Substation Love Letters Project foregrounds heartfelt responses to a question that society prefers to keep hidden in the background — what does it mean to love and how is love connected to memory? Being modern, these days, entails having to forget. The Substation is a culturally symbolic site with historical links that continue to be eroded. My final poem in the series is a tribute to its resilience in the midst of social change.
Cyril Wong is the Singapore Literature
Prize-winning author of Unmarked Treasure and Tilting Our Plates to Catch the Light.
The technique of letterpress is an antiquarian form of printing, once dominant for over 500 years, but is now, an artisanal method of putting word to paper. For this edition of The Substation Love Letters Project, it is apt that this technique is married with the finery of poetry and the romanticised form of the postcard, the love letter.
With the help of Southeast Asia’s only traditional letterpress printing studio, Typesettingsg, a new poem – the final resolution to the many works that came before – is overprinted on cards from the past series of love letters. Each postcard is handprinted; as imperfect as it is unique, as timeworn as it is of the present times.
Silent keys beside a broken lock
inside a drawer
jutting forth like a past lover’s
jaw, filling with the unsaid
or echoes of something more;
the biggest room smells of sweat
if you press your cheek to the floor, that hypnotic scent
of bodies parting slowly after a dance;
if this building is empty, it isn’t
for long, as the wind slips in
with a surgeon’s precision
through another window hanging
open by its rusted hinges like a half-
closed wound; not empty,
but a plenitude, a relief, however
temporary, those beams
shivering discreetly across the ceiling
before the long day withdraws its fingers
of daylight from walls, stairs, worn
cheeks of cupboards and the floor
that might never relinquish its fragrances,
its ghosts and secrets still tanging the evening air.
– Cyril Wong