Image of ducklings by Ina Roy Faderman

Five Things I Learned During the 2023 Fest

September 19, 2023
by Veronica Martinez

From Ina Roy-Faderman:

It happens every year: despite my having been part of the Fest for more than a decade, I learn things that really matter. I usually jot them down in my journal or diary and turn back to them when I want to remember. But this year, I realized that that’s kind of selfish. Learning’s such a gift (I’m a teacher, you’d think I’d have figured that out after all I’ve learned from my students) that it’s kind of obnoxious to not share it. So, I thought I’d share the best of this year’s list of gifts with you:

  • There are the safe topics — the Important Topics taken on by Great Poetry — and then there are the things that matter, which may or may not be the same thing. I’ve received poems about homemade granola bars, bee stings, dusting on the day after a divorce goes through. So gorgeous and unexpected, I’m indebted to the poets who talk about what matters in their lives.

  • I only just realized how perfect the word “duckling” is. It sounds exactly like what essence of a duckling is. If you’re the person who sent me that poem, a thousand thanks.
  • I think of myself as the queen of the one-page poem, but…I should stop putting myself in that box. Over the past year, I’ve been writing shorter poems. For this fest, I sent out tiny, bite-sized, haiku-style poems. They captured something about my bit of the universe that I can’t share in longer poems. Weird, but true.
  • Some people are both visual and word artists, and I’m not one of them. And that’s okay. That’s been a tough one – I’m one of those poets who buys or begs already made art postcards and puts my poems on them. There’s some childhood ick behind the whole visual art block that I’ll have to work through one day, but for now, I am more consciously grateful for the people who send me beautiful visual art with beautiful words beside them. Two gifts in one!
  • I love the mix of old friends and new poets on my list. There are people on this year’s list that I’ve met in real life because of the fest, and new names in cities I looked up (thank you, Google Maps) because I’ve never been there. It’s like this huge net of connection; the feeling of getting postcards from all over must be what it felt like when telegraphs started connecting people around the country.

These are just a few of the things I learned, connections I made. What about you?


  1. Richard Meadows

    This title startled me as I thought I missed the Fest. It is October 6-8 of this year 2023, correct?
    What Fest are you talking about here?

  2. Arthur Tulee

    Yes, all of your words have wings, claws, far-seeing eyes, full hearts and throats. The PoPoFest is lucky to have you on the board and in the trenches, Ina Roy-Faderman!

  3. Daniel

    Things I learned this past August:
    To start early in July makes perfect sense
    Only if I do
    Pristine, perfectly shaped marshmallows
    Are the stuff of the Dough Boy’s dreams
    and for the rest of us, well, weird marshmallows
    That visual art is for artistic visual artists
    And not for me; my photographic skills
    Are only as good as my new Brother Inkvestment
    J5855DW, bought specifically for my postcards
    The words are what matter to me.
    What fits on a postcard has many layered depths
    To explore throughout the next eleven months.
    PoPoFest is the kernel in my popcorn,
    Heavily buttered, micro’d to perfect union
    And what matters and fits becomes longer,
    More perfect, numinous, detailed, less
    Perfunctory than lines on a card
    Written to strangers who become friends,
    Who respond with the wind behind them,
    A roaring fire accompanying a wing back chair,
    A drink of purest water, nectared syntax,
    And grounded in someone’s naked earth
    We both explore and trust the compass
    Brass and carefully tended by Cascadian minds.

  4. Karen Myrick

    This year—only my second year, so a universe of learning waits for me—but this year I learned what a multitude of ideas can come for writing in response to the poem of another in my group whose card I received first. Suddenly I was no longer writing to a stranger, but to one who had shared something of himself or herself, something of their world in a particular moment, and I found connections. It’s like I could hear poet Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer saying to me, “Listen to the other parts of yourself speaking.” While I may not have been successful in sending forth the connections to those receiving my poems (How could I know?), for myself, I felt relationship, and it gave me joy.

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