The letters in this collection were mainly written by Howard Sergeant to Janice M. (Jan) Green. The collection also contains two letters signed "David", and the final two letters were written by Jean, Sergeant's wife, during his final illness and after his death.
The correspondence appears to have begun when Green submitted one or more poems for inclusion in Outposts. Although these were rejected, Green wrote back to Sergeant with questions about his poetry and an ongoing exchange of letters began. The relationship quickly moved into friendship and the letters became more intimate, and it is clear from the correspondence that Sergeant and Green spoke on the telephone fairly regularly but met only occasionally. Green also undertook work for Sergeant, including typing up his poems and writing occasional reviews for Outposts.
Most of the letters in the early years contain Sergeant's feelings for Green and about their relationship, which appear to have been intense; in a letter of 17 August 1978 he writes, "[Y]ou are the biggest thing that ever happened to me (including Muriel) ". Many discuss his marriage to his second wife, Jean, from whom he tells Green he is concealing their relationship. A number of the letters expound Sergeant's theories about life and poetry (such as his "philosophy of love"), while others contain gossipy information about literary figures and mutual acquaintances. Several of the letters seek to explain to Green his earlier relationships, such as that with Muriel Spark.
Green and Sergeant had a number of mutual friends and acquaintances in the poetry world. The most frequently mentioned are Tilly Shore, the widow of Henry Shore, whom Sergeant was assisting in setting up a charity in Henry Shore's name; Jenny Brice, a Midlands poet; and David, whose name and exploits appear in a large number of the letters. David was the leader of the Middle England Poets Society (also Middle England Poetry Services) (MEPS). Sergeant appears to have been a friend of David for a number of years and frequently reports phone calls and letters from him.
In 1979 there was a clash between MEPS and the Stafford Group poetry society, regarding whether the two groups should merge or whether there should be a branch of MEPS in Stafford. It is unclear exactly what the situation was, although it seems that a personality clash may have been at the root of the issue, but it appears from this correspondence that Sergeant was receiving letters from both sides, hoping for his support, and that Green was also involved. Many of the letters in this period are largely taken up with the situation, and contain much opinion and information about the main players.
The relationship between Green and Sergeant soured for a time in 1981 when Green met a new partner. However, early 1982 saw a return to friendly correspondence, although with less intimacy and frequency than previously. Green and Sergeant then seem to have remained on good terms until his death in 1987.
A brief description of the main subjects in each letter is given at item level. The earliest letters are exclusively handwritten, but from August 1978 the letters are frequently typewritten.