Alphabet Faces

I sent a series of mail art items out recently, all to my son, over a period of maybe about 7-8 weeks. Each one featured a letter of the alphabet, one at a time, and not in order. I didn’t save images for very many of them, just didn’t get to it. Doesn’t matter – the main point was that each letter got its own haiku, based on some characteristics of the letter itself.

Since childhood, I have seen words as visual objects – I learned to read by recognizing words. Phonics meant almost nothing to me. I didn’t relate written words to spoken language – reading was something else altogether for me. You looked at the page and the meaning of a large chunk of text came immediately into your mind all at once, like looking at a pattern – that’s how I saw it.

Even better, each word looked like what it meant. I recognized each word as I would recognize an individual, immediately. The pattern of letters added up to a picture – change a letter, change the picture, not just the word and its meaning.

It all sounds a little strange, and I can’t explain this whole thing any further, except to say that my son shares this characteristic with me. We have had many conversations over the years (mystifying my husband, who does not see things this way at all) starting soon after my son learned to read, about the “expression” a word has, or its personality, and what about the word links its meaning and its visual image.

As an aside, I was curious how it would be to learn another language, if this process would happen – so when I studied Spanish as an adult, I was happy to learn that it did – it just seemed to me that the language expressed things in a different visual style. “Tia” and “aunt” mean the same thing, I understood, but with a whole different flavor.

Anyway, individual letters work the same way to me. Some are shy, some assertive – some push at other letters, some are friendly and open. These characteristics affect the words they appear in, maybe like changing colors in a pattern makes it lean one way or another as to the effect it has on the viewer.

As to these haiku offerings – I think I will not set out the whole alphabet at one time but will only do a few letters – give each one its moment to be a star, maybe. And I think I’ll put them in the order I sent them. I have a few pictures – I’ll post them along the way.

I wrote the haikus only one at a time for most of the alphabet, although I’ll say got impatient at the end and did several at once. Sorry to those letters, but now they can get their attention.

So, here are three:


The big letter “S”

sailing out of sight. But why

in such a hurry?



Letter “A”, at home

in upper left-hand corner.

Number one. Not shy.



“C” is essential

to composition. No “C”,

you don’t get started.


artist trading card 2011 I love using random pages of print all mixed together. The tantalizing glimpses of phrases and words, scraps of meaning...

artist trading card
I love using random pages of print all mixed together. The tantalizing glimpses of phrases and words, scraps of meaning…


19 thoughts on “Alphabet Faces

  1. That is so crazy. I have the same thing, only with numbers. They have always had strong “personalities,” if you will. I have never heard anyone else express this (and when I have tried to explain it to people they either look at me blankly or like I’m completely strange). My son is only three and now, after reading your shared quality with your son, I can’t wait to discover if he too has this view of the world.

  2. That’s fascinating to me. I’ve never met anyone besides my son who sees language this way (and as I said, there is a difference to me between spoken and written language). I am curious to know if this enhances your ability to use numbers. I have found that this way of seeing words has made me a really fast reader and so I love reading, because it comes easily, and so a lot of other things in school and life were helped by this.

    Also, another benefit for me is that I can read upside down. This was really interesting when I worked in an office for many years and often found myself sitting across the desk from someone who was referring to paperwork they thought only they could see…

  3. Thank you so much for paying such close attention to my work. I appreciate it. One thing I am really liking about publishing my poetry work (after hiding it in notebooks my whole life) is something that I also find with my visual art work – I create something and I think of it in a certain way, and then someone comes along and sees something in it that I had no idea about. I am very surprised and grateful that my work can do this. And what I learn from what others tell me. I had not thought at all of C in that way as you mention, as the sounds of letters don’t affect me much, as I said. But wow! What a lot of thought that opens up when I do think of it that way.

    As for synesthesia, I have heard of it; in fact, my husband works with a woman who sees numbers in color, which is why I looked it up. I had not thought of that in connection with how I read. I’ll go back to it and look it up again, it’s interesting to think of it that way. I do know it makes reading a lot of fun for me and since we have print everywhere, I never lack for something to think about. Even when the print doesn’t make real words or is only composed of partial words, I enjoy looking at it, and I love using it in art work.

    Thanks for your comment again and also for listening to all this!

  4. No problem Claudia. I genuinely like your work. I would like to see more of it. For me the graphical interface with words works really well. Something to do with the way my brain is wired maybe. I particularly admire the fact you must spend a great deal of time creating the finished piece. I’d love you to send me one!

  5. I have an art blog here too,, and I put lots of mail art type things on it, things like this, plus the other things I do, I don’t know if you might have seen it. And, my mail art offer is always open – if someone sends me their address I will send some mail art. I belong to several mail art groups and it keeps me busy.

  6. Thank you! I have thought about making a little book of all the haikus when I have finished posting them here. Although I’m not great at making books (I’m better at splashing paint all over, if you think of my artwork) – but I hadn’t thought of something like that. I was thinking maybe just a simple zine kind of thing with the staples, etc. But maybe… thanks for your suggestion and your attention to my work.

  7. It’s appealing to me. I like reading the whole haiku alphabet sequence; it’s interesting to me since I did not do it in order nor did I refer back to whatever letters I had already done. Sometimes things work together all on their own with no help from me, it seems!

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