Letters Not About Love

Year Released
Film Length(s)
58 mins
Remote video URL


“Home,” “poverty,” “window,” are among the everyday words discussed in a five-year correspondence between American poet Lyn Hejinian and Russian poet Arkadii Dragomoshchenko. This dynamic exchange, combined with home movies, archival and new images from the U.S. and Russia, creates a stunning portrait of both countries and a provocative exploration of the relationship between language, culture and communication.

Featured review

A powerful representation of the potential of art simultaneously to respect difference and to bridge it...
Andrew Wachtel
Pearce Miller Research Professor in Literature Chair, Dept. of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Northwestern University


Two contemporary poets, one from America (Lyn Hejinian), the other from Russia (Arkadii Dragomoshchenko) are asked to begin a correspondence based on a list of ordinary words such as 'home,' 'book,' 'poverty,' 'violence.' They reflect on each word, considering its conventional meaning and what it means to them personally. The resulting extraordinary five-year dialogue is by turns poignant, profound and funny. Both poets move seamlessly from present to past, a move echoed by the use of striking new and archival footage from both countries. As the film progresses and intimacy grows, both the similarities and differences between Russian and American ways of grasping the world are revealed. Letters Not About Love becomes both a fascinating portrait of two cultures and a compelling expression of the art of mutual understanding.


The film is a history lesson, a social studies tract, a poetry workshop...libraries, high schools and universities would do well to challenge viewers with this absorbing, insightful and demanding film. Highly recommended.
Vivienne L. Lipsitz
Director of Media Services, Port Washington Public Library
Hejinian and Dragomoshchenko engage in an exemplary cross-cultural dialogue...one of the most significant poetry-related films of our time, and one that would make an excellent choice for showing as part of courses in creative writing, poetry, or poetics.
Charles Bernstein
D.T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania
Rich in texture, detail and visual nuance, this film's passionate attention to material culture and environment offers inspiring cinematic poetry and techniques for students of Visual Anthropology.
Peter Beilla
Professor of Visual Anthropology San Francisco State University
The delicate merging of private maps - home, grandmother, local weather - in this intimate and formal correspondence of two poets, one in America, one in Russia. A beautiful and moving film.
Michael Ondaatje
Poet/Author of "The English Patient"
..a rare embrace of the political and the personal...It is a true and literal fusion of cinema and poetry.
Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle
By the end of this short, 60-minute film, a deep intimacy has been established - between the poets, between their cultures, and between film and audience.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Cleveland Plain Dealer

Awards and Screenings

Best Documentary Feature, South by Southwest Film Festival
Special Award for Cinematic Poetry, American Anthropological Association Film Festival INPUT '99 Selection, XXII
INPUT '99 Selection, XXII Int'l. Public TV Screening Conference
Gold Apple Award, National Educational Media Network
Dziga Vertov Visionary Artist Award, Huntington International Independent Film Festival
International DOCumentary Association's October Film Festival
Denver International Film Festival
Hamptons International Film Festival
Sheffield International Documentary Film Festival, England
Viennale, Vienna International Film Festival

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