August Poetry Postcard Fest

FullSizeRender copy.jpgWatercolor postcard painted by me!

I just finished taking part in the 11th August Poetry Postcard Fest. It was the second time I signed up to send original poems on postcards for every day of the month of August. That’s 31 days, 31 poems! For a poetry project, the postcard fest is a bit rule-bound. There was a Facebook page for making connections during the fest, some people loved it, others felt it hindered the pure snail-mail experience. I checked in every once in a while and posted some pics of cards going out. The major ‘rule’/suggestion which I was unable to adhere to both times I’ve taken part in the fest involved composing directly onto the postcard. It’s not that I worry about my handwriting, though the few cards I wrote out by hand were near illegible. I did compose directly onto the first few cards this time around, but abandoned it in favor of getting some real poetry-writing done. A personal and artistic decision. I just couldn’t waste an opportunity to produce a handful of poems that might live to see the light of day. This may be antithetical to the Fest’s aims, but it’s what worked for me. Here’s an example of how subsequent cards went out, my post solar eclipse card and poem:

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Every morning I composed an original poem directly into a Word document, no revising. I printed each poem in 9 or 10 point font and taped it to the back of the card. I took a photo of each day’s card front and back, but the poems are saved in a future chapbook file. Here’s the thing, about a year ago I began a project I called ‘Missives’; a collection of prose poems written as letters. I had about eight poems in that file going into the Fest. I woke up on the third or fourth morning realizing that the Poetry Postcard Fest would be the perfect opportunity to write more poems toward ‘Missives’. I chose this rather than producing a few throwaway (for me) handwritten lines. I approached my first postcard fest a few years ago in the same way. A handful of poems from that year’s cards made it into my second collection. I find the matching of poem to postcard image or vice versa to be profoundly generative. Some days I wrote the poem first and searched my copious postcard collection for the perfect image. Other days I wrote a poem specifically for the card.

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After all was said and done (or printed, taped and posted) I had 10 to 12 poems I felt were strong enough to add to my ‘Missives’ project, which has changed focus slightly and been renamed. A theme emerged through my month-long writing exercise, so even the poems I don’t feel are strong enough to hold their own seem to be in dialogue with the others. Of course, this is the beauty of poetry. The themes dominating my psyche and spirit would have remained shadowy or subterranean. The writing made them real and I believe it was the meditative writing practice that achieved this. For me, dwelling on the themes that began to emerge was the only way to participate in the Poetry Postcard Fest. The Fest, as it did the first time around, gave me the reason and motivation to write poems. Being a sender and recipient of poems kept me on task. I understand the immediacy of handwriting directly onto a card, the logic, connection and aesthetic behind it. But, overall I think poets taking part in any lengthy writing project (MFAs included!)  should make the project work for them. Rules are malleable and writing poetry isn’t like learning a language or writing code. What works one day may not work the next. And what works for 1 or 100 poets may not work for you! Finally, a big thank you to my Group 5 compatriots. Thank you for your poems and cards, so many of them handmade. ‘Til next year!


Postcards I received from Group 5 participants





6 thoughts on “August Poetry Postcard Fest

    • Thank you Anne! You’re a sweetie. I wish I could have sent the postcards and have them to keep because it’s fun having the image and the poem. But I’m not that organized….

  1. This reminds me of my journaling. I’ve set my mind to write each day and let myself write whatever comes to mind. I’m surprised by what I remember and how I phrase my thoughts. It’s like my subconscious is getting a free rein. It’s also meditative for my mind to physically write things out. I’m not a poet like you, but I get a big kick looking at all the filled pages! Glad you continue to find what works for you creatively and also you are a rule-bender in the best way!

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Thank you Deynise! Yes, the thrill of filled pages is a unique pleasure. I also like a kind of ‘daily’ or ‘ordinary’ style. That’s probably where this set of poems ended up rather than strictly epistolary.

  2. David Sherwin wrote about the fest years ago:

    “Needless to say, my first year of participation was a struggle. Breaking the rules, I wrote ideas in my notebook first, then copied the material onto postcards. While this satisfied my desire to make sure I liked what I’d written before I sent it off, I was totally missing the point: the project isn’t about writing great material, as it would be impossible to force out a satisfactory piece of art each day. (What does “satisfactory” mean, anyhow? Whom needs to be satisfied?)

    The second year, however, I vowed to try and hold to the spirit of the project. After struggling through the first dozen postcards, I became more comfortable in placing raw, nascent thoughts on paper. By the twentieth card, I could quell the editor, always hovering with his red pen in my mind. But by the time I had finished out the month, I had learned how to capture a mental gesture organically, through words. I had also sensed something novel, which I hadn’t been able (yet) to bring into my daily work as a designer: a sense of improvisation and play in the midst of ever-encroaching deadlines.

    Isn’t this where any innovation begins? A blank page, tied to a cleverly constrained problem that could be solved an almost infinite number of ways. Intuition lurks in the boundaries, defining the space where we can roam freely…” Glad you enjoyed the fest and hope you’ll learn to trust your instincts better as you continue to write.

    • Paul,
      thank you for this. Sherwin’s experience really resonates with me. Though not the experience I had with the Fest it’s one I appreciate and would like to try out in the future. I think for me, writing directly onto the card would be a process of thinking/composing in a different way. There’s definitely something about the ‘safety net’ of writing a poem I can throw away or fiddle with that allows me to be braver. Experiencing that expansiveness directly onto the confines of the card would definitely be a trip! A project for another year. Thank you for all the time and energy you put into the Fest. I’ve enjoyed it so much both times I took part.

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