A Charming Luddite in Our Midst
On the Planet without Visa, Sotère Torregian’s most recent book of poetry, is also Coffee House’s last Spring publication, available in August. The book spans Sotère’s prolific career, including poetry from 1960 up to the present day. Also included in the book are a few collages and handwritten gems, demonstrating Sotère’s avoidance of modern technology. As he neither owns nor operates a computer, most of his communication with Coffee House Press was done via snail mail. We thought it would be fun to give our readers a glimpse of some of the beautifully scripted letters he sent during the production of his book, as they provide a fascinating look into the very real man behind the surrealist poetry.
An example of the beautifully addressed letters Sotere sent to publisher Chris Fischbach
The initial letter of inquiry, set on a typewriter and adorned with flowing script, demonstrates Sotère’s fondness for the USPS:
A note typed on the back of an envelope
After On the Planet without Visa was accepted for publication, Sotère sent an especially decorated letter to Coffee House, showing just as much enthusiasm on paper as he would have were he to have visited in person. He indicates his incredible gratitude, writing, “[On the Planet without Visa] has saved me, throughout these years. It has defined me, so to speak. Also it is an hommage to all my poet and artist Friends through all these years. It means much to me to receive the imprint of Coffee House Press!”
Sotère quickly developed a strong relationship with everyone at Coffee House Press, sending updates in his letters as though he were writing to a beloved family member:
I have finally heard from Sandy (Berrigan) — she attended my Reading with ANNE and Lewis for celebration of the Angelhair Poetry Anthology (AD2003) in San Francisco . . . As you know Ted (Berrigan), was one of my Best Friends in the New York days (1962-1967) amongst the New York Group. I love the book, Dear Sandy, (Ted’s Letters to Sandy) — I read it often, keeping it as a bedside book . . .
He also writes in a “Nota Bene” to the same letter, “I have an Appearance/Reading/ and Booksigning for my book, Envoy (AD.2010, Richard Owens, Punch Press, Buffalo N.Y.) at MOE’S Books, Berkeley, 26th MAY, Wed. eve. 7pm — Thank Goodness have found ride to get there!”
My favorite find from the collection of letters is a drawing done by Sotère’s Grandson, Joseph Torregian-Gustaveson:
Left to Right: "Grandpa" (Sotère), "you" (Antoinette, Sotère's "friend and muse"), "my mom" (Janaina), "my dad" (Sotère's Son-in-Law, Gustaveson), "maya" (Sotère's Granddaughter), "me" (Joseph, the artist)
I hope you find Sotère’s letters to be as captivating as I did and that they deepen your experience of his poetry!