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postcard moment, many later get published or edited into longer poems or compiled into chapbooks (the latter as yet unpublished, but on finalist and semifinalist lists in several contests).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.

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.

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!

Postcard Fest news!

April 29, 2019

For the last several years, the launch of the August Poetry Postcard Fest has come as a surprise to many people who missed the short sign-up period. No more. Paul Nelson heard the complaints and has greatly expanded the signup time for APPF 13, which will begin this Wednesday, May 1, and remain open through July 14, 2019. There is a small fee for participation in addition to the cost of stamps (and postcards, if you choose to buy them).

Learn more about the August Poetry Postcard Fest on the official APPF page, go directly to the sign-up page at Brown Paper Tickets, or click to see previous posts on this challenging and engaging project.

go outside

August 18, 2018

This evening, Saturday, August 18, 2018, 6:30 to 8:30pm, join poets Carletta Carrington Wilson and Paul Nelson along with The Jim O’Halloran Quintet and vocalist Elva Pope at the 13th Annual Bradner Gardens Concert and Poetry Reading. Bring chairs, blankets, dinner, family, and friends, and enjoy a congenial evening at Bradner Gardens Park in the Mt. Baker neighborhood of southeast Seattle.

Becoming Cascadian

May 14, 2018

Interested in the intersection of poetics and bioregionalism? There are a limited number of openings for participants in Becoming Cascadian, a community-building retreat designed for poets, artists, and bioregionalists to gather, share strategies, and discuss “roles as humans in this time of ecological crisis and end-stage empire.” Keynote poet Andrew Schelling has published 20 books, including seven of translation from India’s early poetry.

Becoming Cascadian will take place Thursday, May 31 through Sunday, June 3, 2018, in Seattle. Poetry writing experience is not necessary. Advance registration is required no later than Tuesday, May 29.

Visit the Becoming Cascadian page for full details.

tomorrow in Winthrop!

May 10, 2018

Tomorrow at 5:30pm, you’re invited to join Tod Marshall, Paul Nelson, Judy Kleinberg, and friends for a poetry reading at Trail’s End Bookstore in Winthrop, Washington. Hope to see you there!

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