by Margaret Lee
I keep signing up for the Poetry Postcard Fest every year, primarily because it’s the most fun I ever have when writing poetry. Besides, I always make marvelous new friends! But the Fest is more than just fun. Paul Nelson and I wrote a brief article for the Journal of Black Mountain College Studies in which we explored documented reasons why the Fest can visibly and significantly deepen creativity.
Paul and I argued that the postcard itself is part of the magic. In “The Poetry Postcard Fest: Black Mountain Style,” we explained, “The Poetry Postcard Fest turns back the media clock by resorting to a tactile writing surface…. Its engagement with paper postcards induces a media shift that places participants in a particular state of mind.…Each card functions as a transparent surface where sender and receiver await one another’s presence and make contact. Paper postcards become windows to the deeper self.”
The interviews and postcard examples on the Fest web site illustrate a vast range of creativity. As we note in the Black Mountain article, “Some participants employ serial techniques for their postcards, such as choosing a theme, using epigraphs from a particular poet on each card, using astrological aspects of that particular August, writing ekphrastic poems based on the image on the postcard, and/or starting a new card with the same line or image from the previous card and seeing how a subject evolves with that treatment.” Postcard poets revel in the freedom they experience in the Fest. Many find that it positively affects their writing long term. “Participants report a growing ease with spontaneous composition, newfound joy in poetry writing, delight in other writers’ poetry, and a palpable sense of community.”
There is nothing accidental about these significant benefits. Our article in the Journal of Black Mountain College Studies lays out some of the theoretics that contribute to the Fest’s success and its popularity among its participants. At the end of the day – or the month of August – “Poets write more, edit less, and begin to experience the depths of open form, including seriality.” This is just what the Fest sets out to do. I look forward to the Fest every year as an eruption of creative possibility!