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postcard moment, many later get published or edited into longer poems or compiled into chapbooks (the latter as yet unpublished, but on finalist and semifinalist lists in several contests).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

meanwhile, in Oregon

June 18, 2021

Oregon poet laureate Anis Mojgani seated on caramel colored couch wearing a coral colored shirt

Nice article this week in Oregon Live about how Oregon poet laureate Anis Mojgani plans to use the proceeds of a $50,000 fellowship funded by the Academy of American Poets with support from the Mellon Foundation. His plans include a quarterly print newspaper, a poetry telephone line, and a postcard campaign. Read all about it.

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.

dazzling postcards

October 17, 2020

In case you missed this article on the work of Vik Muniz by Tariro Mzezewa in The New York Times, have a look (the bigger the screen the better). It’s a treat for the eyes and an inspiration to postcarders and collage artists.

. . . . .
photo

meanwhile, in Vermont

September 28, 2020

When Mary Ruefle was appointed Poet Laureate of Vermont in October 2019, she probably was not imagining that her first year (of four) in office would be defined by a pandemic. (Or, for that matter, that her latest collection, Dunce, would be one of two finalists for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in poetry.)

Each laureate envisions projects for their tenure and Ruefle decided to send 1,000 poetry postcards to Vermont residents. Selecting recipients from the phone book using her own quirky system, she sends poems that seem to have a particular resonance to the current moment.

Read about Mary Ruefle’s postcard project here.

. . . . .
photo by Matt Valentine

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!

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.

zines, etc.

May 11, 2020

Portland, Oregon, based Antiquated Future is a trove of imagination-in-print. Eileen Myles on vinyl? Yup. “A Spell For Letting Go” patch? Yup. Postcards, notepads, journals, and greeting cards? Loads. And zines, zines, zines.

From the site:

A zine (pron.: /ˈziːn/ Zeen; an abbreviation of fanzine, or magazine) is a self-published, small circulation booklet or magazine, usually produced by one person or a few individuals. Zines come in all shapes, sizes, topics, and formats. They can include personal essays, political discussions, fiction, craft, or do-it-yourself advice. Articles or reviews about music, movies, comics, poetry, are also a common trait. In short: they can be anything!

And even if all you want is a fun browse, check out Antiquated Future.

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