My real friends say their guilty pleasure is Sheryl Crow. They’re all smart people so I think, poor Sheryl Crow. Who is strong enough to claim her? Anyway, she’s just singing songs – she just wants to have some fun – why should anyone be ashamed? Music makes for a lame guilty pleasure. The other day, though, I thought of something I take pleasure in that I ought certainly to hide under a bushel.

It’s emotional turmoil. I thrive on it.

My own, yours – I love it. I do not love it when I’ve caused it – I hate it then – but I love the turmoil I feel for having caused it. That’s true.

The thing is, well, we’re pretty awful and we’re awfully petty, aren’t we? We’re so self-consumed. We think love is a thing that matters. We think love is a thing. We want it so badly we’ve built an economy of it. We don’t pay each other with it, we use it to pay each other back. We don’t spend it, we inflict it. And what’s worse is that it’s not a currency we control, it’s a current that sweeps us away. We’re fickle and the thing we think of as love controls us.

Oh humanity, oh centuries of pain. We are foolish. We will not last long – the turmoil in these letters suggests as much.

From dozens of letters I tried to choose the ones that seemed the most truthful, and the ones that seemed most truthful were the ones that were most aware of the mystery of love and let it be mysterious. Some of them are practically meaningless, which I think is appropriate.

Of course, there are many different angles here, and sometimes they hit their mark – like the poem that ends “But then I think of that darkness true/And I think I love love more.” And I love the letter from the mom which opens with a letter from her son that died. There’s some palpable, throat-swallowing love right there.

There’s a line in a Chris Toll poem that goes, “Love is so hard/But it’s all we came to do.” Talking about love is risky. It’s amazing that we try, but it would be even more remarkable if we didn't.

Adam Robinson is the founding editor of Publishing Genius Press and author of Adam Robison and Other Poems and Say, Poem.

the love letter collection
submitted 16:09 PM EST
Tuesday, July 3, 2012