poetry postcards 2017

October 5, 2017

As a seven-year veteran of the August Poetry Postcard Fest (APPF), I think it just keeps getting better. This year, I received more postcards and better poems than in previous years (several arrived after the above photo was snapped).

Taking a hint from other postcarders, I wrote all of my poems on a theme. What that means is that I now have a collection of short poems to revise into a chapbook! The theme added an unexpected energy to the process: while I gave little thought to what I’d write the next day, each morning a poem seemed to be waiting to be shaped to postcard size.

Each year, a number of participants do a recap of their APPF adventures. Here are a few who have provided links:

Paul E. Nelson | Barbara Jean Sunshine Walsh |
Christine Hartzell
| Jane Swanson | Judith van Praag | Kristin Cleage Williams | L. Lisa Lawrence | Linda Crosfield |Margo Jodyne Dills | Rosanne Martine-Braslow (2016) | Sarah Sousa

One of the pleasures of APPF is that it explores the boundary between words and image. Many participants make their own postcards and many use images from cards sent or received as a place to begin their poems.

At an event coming up this Monday in Bellingham, we’ll explore that boundary. More than your typical stand-up-and-read poetry reading, Poetry Postcards: a panel and conversation will examine the postcard experience from many directions, including the visual. Please join us at this free event and postcard exchange!

Monday, October 9, 2017, 7:00pm
Bellingham, Washington
Poetry Postcards: a panel and conversation
at the Mount Baker Theatre, Encore Room

A conversation with panelists Tallie Jones, Nancy Pagh, Eugenia Hepworth Petty, Ina Roy-Faderman, and Joanna Thomas, plus moderator Paul Nelson. They will show images, offer resources, read postcard poems, lead exercises, and offer prompts. As a bonus, there will be a postcard exchange: bring unused postcards (commercial or handmade) and take home an equal number contributed by others. Click for PDF event flyer with panelist bios.

There are other APPF events scheduled in October, in Seattle and Portland, and more on the way. Meanwhile, the countdown to August Poetry Postcard Fest 2018 has already begun (to make sure you don’t miss the sign-up call, go to that page and sign up for Paul Nelson’s newsletter).

postcards for National Poetry Month

If you visit this page regularly, you know that the August Poetry Postcard Fest gets regular coverage here. But in case August is just too far away, you might consider participating in a postcard poetry exchange for National Poetry Month. Using the August Poetry Postcard Fest as a model, Lenora Rain-Lee Good has started an April poetry postcard exchange and invites you to participate. To sign up, use the form on her Contact page to provide your name and correct snail mail address, then gather your postcards and stamps and start writing. Lenora will send you your list of names and addresses.

poetry postcard

By all accounts, 2014 has been a good year for August Poetry Postcard-ers. Though some people were disappointed with the number of cards they received, most seem delighted, and continue to enjoy the surprise of finding a late-arriving postcard in the mailbox even well into September. (Comments are gathered from the project’s Facebook group.)

For this participant, it was the fourth year and the best haul yet. The people on my list received postcards from my extremely random collection — cards that have found their way to me from family, garage sales, past travels, etc. — and most of the poems were prompted by the image or the caption on the card itself.

After I finished my regular August list, I decided to keep going, sending cards to the people who had sent them to me (the way the list is set up, your receive from list is different from your send to list) and responding very directly to the poem they wrote. I still have a few more to send, but by the end of September, I’ll have around 60 little drafts and, among them, perhaps some lines that will find their way into more developed poems.

Paul Nelson is a founder of the August Poetry Postcard Fest, along with Lana Hechtman Ayers, and he is also this year’s poet wrangler. His blog serves as Postcard Fest Central and there you’ll find information about the annual event, including a 2015 countdown clock, Paul’s afterword about this year’s fest and details on the postcards and poems he sent, plus a page about the postcards he received.

Paul’s tremendous work on behalf of this event results in the production of an enormous amount of poetry, to say nothing of the expanded (worldwide) network of poets connecting with one another and the mood-enhancing effect on our mail carriers, who must certainly be amused at all this poetry traffic. Thanks, Paul.

Some of the other 422 people on this year’s August Poetry Postcard list are also sharing their poems (and/or their reflections on participating). To see more, click on the poet’s name (in some cases you may have to navigate through several pages to see all of the person’s postcards):

Anna ElkinsBarbara Jean Sunshine Walsh
Courtney BirstDenise at NewPagesJessica Goodfellow
Kelleyanne PearceKristin Cleage Williams
Lisa NicholsMartina RobinsonMary Beth Frezon
McKenzie Lynn TozanNaomi / Kestrel Hill
Raymond MaxwellS.E. IngrahamWrensong

If I’ve missed your postcard posts, please leave a comment with a link to your blog or website. Thanks!

Paul Nelson at Burke Museum
This is a guest post by Paul E. Nelson (pictured above at the Burke Museum).

Each August for many years now I have had the good fortune to be consumed with the ritual activity of reading and writing poems in a community of poets. When Danika Dinsmore moved from Boulder, Colorado, to Seattle in 1995, she brought with her the 3:15 Experiment in which poets would wake up at 3:15AM every day in August and write spontaneously.

Bernadette Mayer was one of the more well-known participants in the project and it was in part an homage to her writing experiments, like Midwinter Day. In that project Mayer, on (Winter Solstice) December 22, 1978, attempted to record all of her thoughts and experiences of a single day in poetry and prose. Alice Notley called it: “…an epic poem about a daily routine.” The notion of waking up (or staying up) and writing in the middle of the night was to engage the state between waking and sleeping.

I had participated in the 3:15 Experiment for several years with a wide range of successes and failures. (Mostly failures. They call it “experimental poetry” for a reason.) I did enjoy the notion that I was part of a community even if I did not see other members, or their work, until well after the act. Knowing these other poets were at a desk by a window wondering what the hell to write at the same time as me was oddly reassuring. (This was before Facebook.)

The postcard project began, in part, to recreate the essence of a ritual poetry experiment in August with a community that was there, but in a tangential way. I asked Lana Ayers, then part of the Striped Water Poets community in Auburn, to help create a project that involved postcards. Lana agreed immediately without knowing what it was going to be, and helped shape the project that came to be known as the August Poetry Postcard Fest.

In the first year there were nearly 100 participants. I remember giddily adding folks to the master list and giving Lana regular updates. Many of us were so excited about the project that we continued to write poetry postcards as a weekly effort for a year.

In Year One I wrote three postcards a day, so I was getting a lot of experience with “the form.” That Jack Kerouac had as a constraint the size of the pocket journals in which he’d compose poems like Mexico City Blues and Ted Berrigan and Robin Blaser understood and utilized the postcard as a form were both inspirations.

The notion of writing spontaneously was also part of the idea from the beginning and remains at the core of the project. Some people have to learn to trust that they can fail now and then, since any card has an audience of one. David Sherwin’s piece, “Creativity, First Class,” about how he cheated at first and then had a transformation about writing ONTO THE CARD is something I think every potential participant should read.

I think of the Japanese art of calligraphy and the concentration, trust and discipline required to create in such a way, and that’s a soul-building effort.

I have been very good about saving the poems I receive and documenting my own poems. Here is one from 2007, the first year:
Paul Nelson to Marjorie Rommel

And one from last year, in which we had 302 participants from Alabama, Alberta, Arizona, Australia, British Columbia, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, France, Georgia, Germany, Hawaii, Illinois, India, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Mumbai, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Ontario, Oregon, Pakistan, Pennsylvania, Quebec, Singapore, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, United Kingdom, Virginia, Washington, Washington D.C., and Wisconsin:
Paul Nelson to Aaron Kokorowski

I love that there are folks all over the world writing spontaneously, developing threads, sharing colloquialisms and dedicating their Augusts to a ritual poetry experiment that has the potential to deepen their own experience as human beings. What is more noble than a human being creative, reaching deeply into their own experience and sharing a little of their own soul with a person in another postal code? In the age of Facebook and Twitter, it seems so subversive to pick out a weird, profound or cool image, actually write something in ink and send it across the continent or world. How long can this go on?

Poetry is part of the gift economy, is a peace-building activity, exercises the imagination (when done right) and postcards are an art form unto themselves. Do it right and you and your Augusts will have been transformed.

To participate in the August Poetry Postcard Fest:

  • Visit paulenelson.com and sign up for the newsletter.
  • A call for participants will go out around July 6, 2014. Respond to the call to get on the list.
  • Get (or make) at least 31 postcards.
  • Purchase postcard stamps. Some of the people on “your” list may live in a different country, so buy some international postcard stamps, too.
  • Read the instructions. The official August Poetry Postcard blog is a good place to start.
  • The list of participants will be distributed later in July.
  • Each day in August, write an original poem directly onto a postcard; no editing. Mail them, in order, to the 30 people below your name on the list. Some postcarders start sending cards in late July so they will begin arriving on August 1.
  • Enjoy your mail!
  • If you Facebook, you might want to join the Postcard Poetry Fest group.

. . . . .
Paul Nelson founded SPLAB in Seattle and the Cascadia Poetry Festival. He is author of Organic Poetry (essays), a serial poem re-enacting history, A Time Before Slaughter (shortlisted for a 2010 Genius Award by The Stranger) and Organic in Cascadia: A Sequence of Energies. He has interviewed Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Sam Hamill, Robin Blaser, Nate Mackey, Joanne Kyger, Brenda Hillman, presented poetry/poetics in London, Brussels, Nanaimo, Qinghai & Beijing, China, has had work translated into Spanish, Chinese & Portuguese and writes an American Sentence every day. He was awarded a residency at The Lake, from the Morris Graves Foundation in Loleta, CA, and published work in Golden Handcuffs Review, Zen Monster, Hambone, and elsewhere. Winner of the 2014 Robin Blaser Award from The Capilano Review, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Meredith, and youngest daughter, Ella Roque.

A postcard from August…

September 14, 2013

2013 - August Poetry Postcards

If every one of the 302 people on this year’s August Poetry Postcard list had penned a poem on a postcard and mailed one each day for the 31 days of August, our mail carriers would have delivered some 9362 new poems into the hands of other postcard-poem writers. While not all the participants reached the goal of 31, a number wrote twice that many, or more, and some found themselves inspired enough to continue postcarding right into September…and beyond. The total is anyone’s guess.

The August Poetry Postcard Fest, founded in 2007 by Lana Hechtman Ayers and Paul Nelson and coordinated this year and last by Brendan McBreen, is about generating first drafts. The poems are not expected to be polished, but raw from the pen (or pixel).

So as not to steal the thunder of a postcard that might be slow in arriving, participants agree to withhold posting their poems until 30 days after they have been sent. But now a number of poets are sharing their words and the images that inspired them.

What follows is a partial list of postcard-posting-poets. In some cases, these are blogs with more recent posts and you may need to scroll down or click on Older Posts to see the postcards; some of the poets are continuing to post, so check back with them to see more.

Michelle CastleberryKristin Cleage —  Linda Crosfield
Anita EndrezzeSarah GutowskiLinda G. Hatton
Sharon IngrahamChris JarmickRosanne Martine-Braslow
Raymond MaxwellMarge MerrillDeborah Miranda
Paul NelsonLisa NicholsTsena Paulson
C J PrinceMartina Robinson

If you are one of this year’s participants and you are posting your postcards but your name is not included here, leave a Comment and the link to your site and we’ll add it to this list.

Finally, thanks to Brendan McBreen for managing an unwieldy list, to Paul Nelson for urgings and inspiration, to the 200 members of the Postcard Poetry Fest Facebook group for daily enthusiasm and to all the participating poets (including the 26 whose postcards reached me) for generating so many worthy words.

2012 Poetry Postcards

July 3, 2012

poetry postcards
The annual August Poetry Postcard Fest is gearing up and you can sign up now.

Started by Paul Nelson and later managed by Lana Hechtman Ayers, the project is being coordinated this year by Brendan McBreen.

Here’s how it works:

  • Sign up (see below).
  • Gather 30 postcards from book stores, thrift shops, online, drug stores, antique shops, museums, gift shops…or make your own.
  • Buy some stamps. Mailed to U.S. addresses, standard postcards (up to 4-1/4″ x 6″) take 32-cent stamps; oversize cards take 45-cent stamps. (This is an international project, so some cards may require additional postage.)
  • Receive (by e-mail) your list of 31 names (including your own) and addresses of participating poets.
  • Each day in August, write an original poem on a postcard and send it to one person on the list, starting with the name that follows yours on the list and moving through the successive names until you’ve sent all your cards.
  • This is a commitment, so if you sign up, do send poetry postcards!

To learn more, go to the August Poetry Postcard website. Read past years’ posts for additional info. The announcement also appears here.

To sign up, send an e-mail to stripedwaterpoets@gmail.com.
Use August Postcard Poetry as the subject line and include your name, complete mailing address and e-mail address.

Happy postcarding!

vintage postcardIt’s fun, it’s easy, it’s open to poets of every stripe: the Concrete Wolf August Poetry Postcard List. Gather some postcards and write a (short) poem on a postcard each day for the month of August, mailing each card to another participating poet. Complete instructions here.
postcard image

lettering Oregon

August 6, 2018

While people around the world are busy writing their August Poetry Postcards, people in Oregon are writing letters. Dear Stranger is a wonderful collaborative project of Oregon Humanities in which Oregonians are invited to write a letter “about the place where you live or a community where you feel at home.” Letters are submitted to Oregon Humanities, where they will be paired and mailed to another letter writer.

Dear Stranger extends the conversation that has been started in the Bridging Oregon project.

It’s sign-up time!

July 4, 2016

August Poetry Postcards

Once again, it’s time to sign up for the August Poetry Postcard Fest. Registration for the 10th annual APPF begins today, July 4, 2016. To pay the small fee and register, you can go directly to Brown Paper Tickets (be sure to complete your address information carefully so postcards will find their way to you through the mail!) and you can get all the Fest details on the official APPF page.

What’s new this year is that participants will be eligible to submit postcard poems for an anthology, 56 Days of August, to be published in October 2017 by Five Oaks Press. More information on the anthology at 56 Days of August.

the belated wrap

December 2, 2015

August Poetry Postcards 2015

Though early December seems a trifle late to be doing the wrap-up on the 2015 August Poetry Postcard Fest, here it is, better overdue than never.

The big change this year was that Paul Nelson, who masterfully coordinates the project, decided to implement a $10 participation fee. While this inspired a certain amount of whining initially, it had the overall effect of almost completely eliminating the people who were not serious about participating. In past years, the biggest disappointment has been how many people signed up but never mailed any cards. (Ideally, each participant sends/receives a postcard to/from each person on a list of 31, self sometimes, but not always, excepted.) This year, the deadbeat list was short and many of the non-receipts could be written off to lost-in-the-mail.

While not in its first year, the August Poetry Postcard Fest group on Facebook was more active than ever. One of the added benefits of the group was identifying poets whose names did not appear (by oversight, intent or damage in the mail) on the cards they sent.

About the project, Paul says, “The quality of the writing, of the images and of the kind notes has set a new water mark for the fest for me. I can’t begin to articulate how humbled am I by all the participants, by the liveliness of this here PCFB [Facebook] page and by how many people are chipping in to take this project to the next level… Abrazos!” Here is Paul Nelson’s Highlights from 2015 and his 2015 Afterword.

A number of participants posted their own recaps, some including images and text from their postcards. Here is a sampling (most date from September, so you may have to scroll back): Barbara Jean Sunshine Walsh | Courtney LeBlanc | Elizabeth Woods | Gabriel Cleveland | Kristin Cleage Williams | Margo Jodyne Dills | Mary Beth Frezon | Ruby Kane | S.E. Ingraham | Taffe Cortinas Dongham.

An unexpected bonus to the 2015 Fest has been the arrival of additional postcards well into November. A number of postcarders committed themselves to sending a card to each of the participants on this year’s list — an ambitious undertaking, but that adds up to 208 draft poems that are ready for reworking!

In all, it was a fine month of poetry. Thanks to Paul and all.

2016 will mark the 10th August Poetry Postcard Fest and the countdown clock is already running. See more on the August POetry POstcard Fest page.

See more August Poetry Postcard posts.