Letters of Love – considering the HSC year

At the beginning of each senior English course, we – myself and students –  write a letter to our future selves that is sealed, stored in a box and opened in the last lesson of the course. It’s usually an exercise where people are free to write as they please. Letters from students who leave the course, or school, before completion are destroyed in front of the class so it is clear that this is totally private correspondence.

This year, my latest Year 12 were encouraged to consider the role of ‘love’ in their lives. One by one, each student shared what the word meant to them and we thought of family and relationships, as well as characteristics including support, loyalty and caring.

We considered four letters for their writing style as this was the first writing activity for Module C: The Craft of Writing.

  • James Mitchell Crow’s letter to his deceased Grandpa
  • Les Twentyman’s humorous ‘Dear St Peter’
  • Jimmy Barnes’ love letter to Music, and
  • John Bell’s career advice to ‘M’

Under the salutation Dear Future Me, students were asked to think about the following prompts:

  • what do you love most about school?
  • which passions will get you through to the end of Year 12?
  • who will support and love you through your HSC experience?
  • how will you thank them?

Love letters are usually a private affair but in recent times, a new epistolary subgenre has evolved: the letter of love written for publication that imparts life lessons or pays tribute to the addressee. This collection belongs to the latter category and was penned to mark the 20th anniversary of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation established by Walter Mikac in memory of his daughters and wife who were killed in the Port Arthur Massacre. A range of public figures from Jimmy Barnes to Radha Mitchell have contributed letters to their younger or older selves, their children, their parents or significant others. Les Twentyman’s stands out for its playfulness. Writing to St Peter, he says: “Look, I’m pretty keen to get into Paradise. Matthew said the meek shall inherit the earth; clearly, I can’t stay down here. Would you see me homeless?”.

review and featured image from the Sydney Morning Herald

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