Why a Postcard Fee This Year?

July 16, 2015
by Ryukan

508. Crater Glacier (Power Animal)I got an unsigned email this morning about the postcard fest:

hello paul
wondering – why is there a fee for participating now?  what is done with  over $4000 you would collect if over 400 sign up (and pay) again?
i have done the august postcard poetry event for years now, but the cost of postage is daunting enough when one has several international folks on one’s list ( over a $1 for each). i try to find free postcards, or inexpensive ones, or make some, but that adds to the cost also, of course.


I responded with complete candor and felt like sharing it here without disclosing the email address/identity of the sender:

Hello and good morning.
I have answered the question you asked about why there is a fee on the main postcard page. That you opened the weekly email from my site thirteen times (according to Mailchimp, which provides that service to my literary-oriented non-profit for $15 a month) suggests this has great import to you. That you did not read the main postcard page is telling.
That, to my knowledge, you have never thanked me for creating the fest, for guiding it and making sure it happens for eight years and that you send an email to ask me very personal questions (what are you going to do with the money?) without even signing your name to the email tells me a lot about you. I want to think that you do not take my actions for granted and that money is tough for you right now and I can relate, going through a divorce, not being able to make a living doing radio, which was my calling since age 13, having a three year old daughter (kids are expensive,) having credit card and student loan debts and having several other poetry-related projects that continue to be not only volunteer positions, but some of which COST money to maintain (www.CascadiaPoetryFestival.com and the recent bioregional anthology for which I was main editor.)
So I want nothing more than to give you the benefit of the doubt and not feel like my efforts are being taken for granted. I do not want to feel like I was put here to be your servant or to feel like my motivations need to be greeted with suspicion.
I want people to experience the joy of making a few weeks in summer totally poetry-centric. That’s how it is for me (except when I wake up to emails like yours) and there is so much in our culture that stands in opposition to poetry, to creativity and to the imagination that it is a stand for me against the capitalist system and the culture which supports it without questioning it. Yet there are costs and then there is the matter of my time which has value to me.
If you think that the $10 registration fee is not justifiable, no one is compelling you to participate. In fact, I had a feeling that the fee would be a weeding out process to discourage people who sign up with good intentions and then renege on THEIR part of the deal by not sending out at least 31 cards, and it has been a weeding out process, since only about 160 have signed up so far. I prefer quality over quantity, so I can easily live with that level of participation.
Generosity is a quality that informs the best poetry. The poetry to which I am attracted is generous in spirit and the poets I want to be around have been tremendously generous to me for my one act of showing interest in their work. Generosity does not come easy to everybody, but I found my Cuban heritage to be a source of that when I visited Cuba ten years ago and I am grateful for that quality in my own bloodline.
Do what feels right to you _____. If the postcard fest is a hardship, please find some better way to get what you need from your creative activity and thank you for participating in the past.
Paul Nelson

So, to those who HAVE registered and expressed support for me (and many have said $10 is a reasonable request), thank you. I hope the fest is as joyful and life-changing (affirming) for you as it has been for me. Without you, this does not happen. Blessings.

8:33am update:

i forget that my email does not show my name.  did not mean to be rude. i wrote : “wondering – why is there a fee for participating now?  what is done with  over $4000 you would collect if over 400 sign up (and pay) again?”  i took a quick look at something that was posted about the upcoming postcard event, apparently too precursory.  no offense was intended.

I am leaving out the person’s name purposely. That they emailed quickly with this also says a lot about their consciousness and I am grateful for the dialog. It allowed me to answer some questions and consider my relationship to money and to myself, always a good use of time.



  1. kristin

    It works for me and do whatever you want with the money!

  2. Walter Lowe

    On my list of 32, 31 are in the USA and one is in Europe. While I will end up paying the extra 85 cents to send that one card at the international rate ($1.20 instead of 35¢), I can also feel the economic pain of that international participant who will have to pay the international rate for all 31 cards to the USA. Perhaps we should have an appendix with an “international” list for the people in the USA to send extra poetry cards to in order to compensate those who provide extended “multicultural” access (in both directions) at extra expense.

    But of course, that would mean additional work for Paul to do.

    I very much appreciate Paul’s efforts, and I always make sure that my 32nd card goes to him, even though he’s not on my list. I’m hoping there will be enough in the account in early September for Paul to be able to indulge in a relaxing cool beverage that has a little umbrella in it the same color as the liquid in the drinking vessel.

  3. Terry Holzman

    Hi Paul! It wasn’t me!!

    Seriously, I admit I had the same immediate thought as the email sender and was too hasty to post a complaint. Woe unto me! How wrong I was! Not thinking it through, nor being kind or even thinking about the WORK involved in planning and pulling off a successful fest. I regretted my post and apologized.

    Paul pointed out that the cost of PoPo Fest has never been “free” with purchasing cards and stamps. (I sent 200 cards out last year and $75 on postage–why was I quibbling about a small admin fee?? I am not wealthy by a long shot, but I pay for things that matter. I am an indiscriminate postcard buyer–really do have a problem–on a recent trip to France I returned with over 100 postcards so I had to seriously question my quibble with a fee.)

    I am writing this to acknowledge the email writer and say I “was there” too, briefly, before I realized my error. Hopefully the email author will realize too how generous Paul Nelson and others have been to manage this yearly event “for fun and for free” for 8 years. I now think the admin fee should more, (but we won’t go there…yet!)

    And I LOVE that the $10 might weed out the uncommitted. I only got a 60% return on my list last year which didn’t bother me but it’s nice to know that the poets this year mightvbe more likely to give 100%!

    I hope email writer joins us, In fact, I will personally sponsor the email writer and send her $10 so she can participate.

    Terry Holzman

  4. paulenelson

    Walter, please feel free to send cards to non-USAmericans. I will give the whole list to the whole list when registration ends. I would also be open to folks providing scholarships to those who are having a hard time and also to outreach to other countries. Thanks for participating! Paul

  5. Bridget Nutting

    Dearest Paul,

    I would imagine that all of us who have participated for numerous years now would agree – there is no way to put a price on what you do in regards to the FEST. Not only have I learned so much from you, and from the yearly participants, I have learned a great deal about myself in the process. In addition, I have been blessed by the numerous friends that have appeared throughout this journey! How can anyone put a price on that!

    All that aside, the number of people who have signed up the last few years, intending to follow through on the commitment, has exploded, while actual ‘follow through’ has dwindled. And, the managing of the lists – mine has changed now at least four times. You are AMAZING! You’ve never complained. I’m not sure I could be as patient!

    I am thankful that nine (?) years ago you and Lana took a leap in faith and started the FEST. The benefits have been priceless!



  6. ruth hudgens

    as a complete newbie to the fest, i was not at all put off by the fee to register. actually thought it was almost too cheap to be true.

  7. Splabman

    Bless you Ruth. Truth is, you decide it is either worth $10 or it is not. But I learned that generosity is a facet of great poetry. Poets who are generous with their time, or their faith in you to “get” their poems without explanation and many other ways this quality shows up in the poetry I love. I feel sorry for the folks who do not see that. I would encourage you to write about your experience after it is done, so take good notes and have fun.

  8. ruth hudgens

    already some fun
    but really the poems
    will appear in ink for the first time
    on the postcard itself?

    what is this cheating i read about?

    for example, is it cheating to write on scrap
    paper first?

  9. Sonja Hansard-Weiner

    Just want to say, an administrative fee had no bearing on my default decision to not participate this year; we changed internet providers (with no forwarding service) and had computer issues on top of the change so I’ve had almost no internet access for almost two months. As a result, the time simply got away from me and I missed the registration deadline. Best to everyone.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You May Also Like …