I never know quite when it’s over — when all of the postcards I’m likely to receive have now arrived. As of today, six (of 31) are still outstanding, which is not bad, and anyway better than last year.

In 2011, when I first participated in the poem-on-a-postcard-each-day-of-August event, I had no idea that writing these short, daily poems would become an ongoing practice. But that’s what happened.

This has become the foundation of my writing, the warmup exercise that slows the atrophy of poetry muscles. Warmup is the operative word. These are not polished poems, but first drafts sent off to a stranger in a gesture of trust with the unspoken near-certainty that they can, and perhaps will, be improved. Drafted quickly for their postcard moment, many later get published or edited into longer poems or compiled into chapbooks (the latter as yet unpublished, but on finalist and semifinalist lists in several contests).

In recent years, many Postcard Fest participants have lavished as much attention on the picture side as on the poem side of the card. Though I’m not one (I use my own printed or random commercial postcards), that makes it especially fun to receive cards in the mail.

Some of us begin to feel like friends when we land on the same list year after year. For those of us on Facebook, there is a participants’ group and a strong sense of community. Though few of us have actually met, the connection with poet/artists all over the world feels more personal than expected. We worry about those who are in harm’s way, ill, evacuated, grieving (aren’t we all?), and share moments of emotion and triumph along with postcard news.

Even with my now well-established habit of daily poeming, I have already signed up for the 2022 Poetry Postcard Fest. Signing up early means my name will likely be on a list with a few people I “know” from other years.

In a time when personal mail is rare, a postcard in the mailbox is a small treasure.

Thank you, Paul Nelson (Postcard Fest co-founder and official wrangler) and postcard friends.

. . . . .
photo: the 2021 haul, including a few bonus cards

postcards!

July 4, 2021

white text on black background with five red wavy lines, like a post office cancellation

We posted about the annual August POetry POstcard Fest fairly recently, but since the sign-up deadline, Sunday, July 18, 2021, is approaching, we thought it worth mentioning again. The annual festival started, and continues to be anchored, in Seattle and now reaches postcard poets all over the world.

Read our earlier post or sign up now! If you’re already signed up (or thinking about it), Paul Nelson’s recent Poetry Postcard Orientation may be helpful.

postcard season

June 5, 2021

Every summer, hundreds of poets make a commitment to write a poem on a postcard each day of August. Now in its 15th year, the August POetry POstcard Fest is an international poetry exchange, both personal and expansive.

Organized by Paul E. Nelson, who co-founded the fest with Lana Hechtman Ayers, the annual event works like this:

  1. Register on Submittable any time through July 18, 2021. There is a small registration fee.
  2. Begin collecting or making postcards. Many participants make their own (you can see a collection in the online poetry postcard exhibit), while others use commercial cards, new or otherwise.
  3. Buy stamps. You can save a bunch by keeping your postcards to standard size (4.25″ x 6″) and thickness (.016″); U.S. postcard stamps are currently $0.36. But if you want to go big, a $0.55 letter stamp will work. You should also stock up on a few international stamps, as it’s quite possible there will be far-flung addresses on your list. Global stamps are currently $1.20 U.S.
  4. Wait for the list. Participant lists are sent by email beginning on about July 19. You will receive a list of 32 names and addresses; that’s one name per day of August, plus you.
  5. Check the list! Make sure your name and address are correct and let Paul know immediately if you need to make a change.
  6. Expect a corrected version of the list. It may take a few days or a week for all of the corrections to filter in.
  7. Begin postcarding. Most participants start mailing cards in the last week of July so that they will arrive near the beginning of August.
  8. Keep postcarding. Your goal is a card a day. The idea is to be spontaneous, not overthink or send a polished draft or something you wrote before. If you fall behind, don’t give up! Even if it takes you into the autumn months, keep sending those cards until you’ve mailed all 31.
  9. Do you Facebook? Join the Poetry Postcard Fest group, where you’ll find lots of tips, encouragement, and inspiring suggestions.
  10. A bonus tip: most U.S. mail receives a machined barcode — a series of long and short dashes imprinted on the lower edge of the address side — that allows other machines to read the address and ZIP code. We urge you to leave what the USPS calls a Barcode Clear Zone, a 5/8″ blank space along the bottom of the address side of your postcards. If you don’t, the barcode may not be readable, interfering with delivery, and/or, very frustratingly, the final lines of your poem may be rendered unreadable by the barcode!

Want more info? Browse the PoPo site, read a recent article by Paul Nelson and Margaret Lee, or see previous posts on The Poetry Department.

Hope you’ll consider participating in 2021. You could end up with a chapbook of poems and you’ll certainly have more postcard-loving friends around the world.

signups begin at midnight!

August 31, 2020

Though some people wait until August to actually write and mail their poetry postcards (and many people don’t), signups begin as soon as the current August Poetry Postcard Fest ends. Visit the POPO.cards registration page at midnight and log on to Submittable to register for 2021. There’s an active and inspiring Facebook group for participants, and of course there’s the pleasure of finding a little slice of poetry in your mailbox. Sign up and play!

late (but not too late)

August 4, 2020

Back in 2017, poet Nicole Sealey realized that she “hadn’t been doing much reading” and decided to do something about it. She challenged herself to read a book or chapbook of poetry each day for the month of August and posted her intentions on social media. Poet Dante Micheaux coined a hashtag, #TheSealeyChallenge, and the word spread. (Here’s a 2018 article in Literary Hub on why Sealey launched her ambitious challenge.)

The Sealey Challenge is now in its fourth year. It’s already August 4, so you have a bit of catching up to do, but chapbooks count, so you can do it! We’ve posted loads of recommended titles and here’s a 2019 list in Electric Lit: “31 Poets Recommend 31 Poetry Books to Read Every Day in August.”

Plus, if you happen to be participating in the August Poetry Postcard Fest, this will give you plenty of fuel for your postcard poems. Happy reading!

. . . . .
photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

last chance!

July 18, 2020

If you’ve been tempted to sign up for this year’s August Poetry Postcard Fest, today is your last opportunity. Registration ends at 11:59pm Pacific time, July 18, 2020. Paul Nelson reports record number of participants — over 500 — so much poetry will be written. It’s fun. Come play.

Dear reader,

July 6, 2020

In response to a question you didn’t ask, maybe because you’re too polite to inquire about a magpie mind, I will say yes, it is getting more challenging to find fuel to feed the furnace of daily posting during a pandemic.

Today, I started thinking about all of the plein air typewriter poets who earn a few bucks poeming on demand at festivals and farmers markets, now out of work. That line of thought led me to the wonderful oz.Typewriter, Robert Messenger’s act of love and obsession since 2011. Here you’ll find the mechanics, history, and lore of typewriters, richly illustrated and somewhat magpie-ish, too, from Canberra, Australia.

Following an oztypewriter link to Welcome to the Typosphere, I was prompted to read a recent article in The New York Times, “Snail Mail Is Getting People Through This Time.” That made me curious about the recent stamp releases from our beleaguered post office (above).

It also prompts me to remind you that there are still 12 days remaining to sign up for the August POetry POstcard Fest. It launched early this year, with plenty of postcards already exchanged, but as more people register, new groups (of 32 each) are forming and can begin sending poetry postcards as soon as they receive their list. Just another way to get through this time. (Earlier posts on PoPo Fest here.)

With thanks for your attention, Likes, and Comments, I remain your masked correspondent,
Judy

. . . . .
Voices of the Harlem Renaissance, Forever stamps, issued May 21, 2020

postcard fest update

June 4, 2020

The August POetry POstcard Fest, now in its 14th year and recently rebranded with a new logo and dedicated website (POPO.cards), is open for business. To honor stay-at-home orders and an accompanying (and continuing) need for artistic expression, Paul Nelson decided to open registration early and encourage participants to start sending postcards as soon as they received their list of names.

Each list contains 32 names — one for each day of August (or whatever month), plus oneself (who may or may not receive a card!). Paul reports that there are currently ten full groups and group 11 is filling up. Groups 1 – 10 have now received their lists and the poetry postcards are flying.

Registration will remain open until July 18, 2020, and there is now a new registration address, on Submittable.

Lots more August Poetry Postcard posts here, and much more info on popo.cards.

If you, like many of us, are feeling the need to reach out during the current crisis, the August POetry POstcard Fest has a new look, a new website, and a new, expansive calendar of possibilities.

The principle is the same:

  1. Register any time between now and July 18, 2020.
  2. Collect or make at least 31 postcards.
  3. Get some postage stamps (including international, since this is a worldwide project; current international rate is $1.20US). (In the U.S., stamps haven’t required licking for a long time, so don’t worry about that problem.)
  4. Starting on March 19, 2020, participant lists will be emailed. Your list will include 32 names and addresses, including your own (which you should, of course, check for correctness).
  5. Once you get your list (or whenever you want), start writing original poems each day, directly onto a postcard. Be spontaneous. Trust your first draft.
  6. Address your first card to the name immediately below yours on the list of poets, and move down the list from there, one POetry POstcard per person.
  7. How you schedule your postcards is up to you. You can start immediately, spread them out, or wait and send a card each day during the more traditional month of August.

There’s a lot more information, including some courtesy protocols and other resources, on the POPO.cards site.

Hope to hear from you soon!

where you find it

December 10, 2019

Rich Maschner, a fellow participant in the August Poetry Postcard Fest, posted this wonderful found-cork poem on Facebook, reminding us that it has been a while since we posted about found poetry.

Much missed since it ceased publication in 2016, The Found Poetry Review is still available online. If you’re new to found poetry or looking for ways to spark your next project, have a look at the Resources pages.

UNLOST is a journal of found poetry and art.

Air Salt: A Trauma Mémoire as a Result of the Fall (University of Calgary Press) is a new book by Ian Kinney that uses a variety of found materials to comprehend and recover from a seven-story fall.

See Double Press has published a number of exquisite books of erasure poetry by Mary Ruefle, Lia Purpura, and Lawrence Sutin.

digital found poem is a “random poetic text generator.”

Enjoy.

(And by the way, it may only be December, but signups are open for the 2020 August Poetry Postcard Fest.)

. . . . .
photo used with permission

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