Welcome to the Poetry Postcard Fest

Holding Meaning Lightly

June 29, 2023
In 2017 the great Zen poet Norman Fischer had this Facebook post:

Poems are not necessarily supposed to do you any good. People think that poems have some meaning embedded in them and that the meaning can do you some good. But I think it’s the opposite: if poems do you any good it is because they transcend meaning, or maybe they even muddle up meaning. Words may not mean what they seem to mean in the way they seem to mean it. And it may be that our strong grip on meaning is one of the main ways we suffer and make others suffer. So we should have a looser sense of meaning, we should recognize that meaning is a kind of tyranny, an ideology, with which we can oppress ourselves and others. It’s not that we need to get rid of meaning — we can’t. But we have to learn how to hold it lightly. And this is my idea of what poems are supposed to do: loosen our grip on meaning.

What a great perspective from which to write postcard poems! I doubt Norman Fischer has in mind complete gibberish for your epistle to a member of this postcard community, but surely kindness and authenticity, which are urged in Zen practice. The writing of a poetry postcard can be a moment of, if not elimination of ego, at least a suspension of ego. The spontaneous method as described by Denise Levertov in Some Notes on Organic Form and Charles Olson in Projective Verse is an attempt (I think) to connect with something more substantial than the ego.

Yet the epistle allows us a kind of intimacy that is not as welcome in other forms, according to Sam Hamill. His essay Epistolary Poetry is worth a look as you prepare for Postcard Season. And the advice Brenda Hillman gives in her Eco-Poetics Minifesto: A Draft for Angie is sound for any kind of poem.

What methods are you planning for the 17th Poetry Postcard Fest beginning in July 2023? Note below in the comments and feel free to tell a friend about the fest.


  1. Linda Trott Dickman

    I am planning on writing from my heart.

  2. Denise Cottingham

    I am planning on using prints of my daily photos to make the cards. It is as though the conversation has already started when I put my pen to it. I want to call it cheating – an old impulse to mistrust ease and even joy. I am planning to play! I am being more spontaneous in my 60’s and I look forward to letting poetry rip. Also, HOLD MEANING LIGHTLY is going on my maxim wall.

  3. Joyce Jenkins

    For some reason this interesting refection of our grip on reason made me think of Dr. Seuss:
    “I meant what I said and I said what I meant”.

    (Horton Hatches a Who)

  4. Jade Li aka Lisa Fox

    When it comes to poetry, you do you and I will do me, both in writing and reading it. Poetry will not be confined to shoulds and shouldn’ts. Its a free bird.

  5. Linda Crosfield

    I have no idea what tact I’ll take this year. Lately, I’ve been scanning photos (so I can rid myself of the albums) so I may use some of the discards and call it my bad photo poems. To quote P.D. Eastman, “Or something may happen. You never know what.” She was married to Dr. Seuss. See, the postcard fest hive mind is working already!

  6. Nancilynn Saylor

    Town and country photos
    Photos of the sea
    Sunrise and flowers plus grey sky and
    Storm clouds

    Will words abound in my 75th year?
    Haiku, perhaps…

  7. Dorothy Lemoult

    I’m going to follow Julia Cameron’s advice and say “ ok Universe, you take care of the quality, I’ll take care of the quantity”.

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