generic image of postcard poems

Eyeballin’ It with Kat: One Poet’s Approach to Writing Postcard Poems

June 20, 2024
Veronica Martinez

Eyeballin’ It with Kat: One Poet’s Approach to Writing Postcard Poems by Kat Bodrie

I call my method for hanging framed pictures “Eyeballin’ It with Kat.” (I told my husband it’ll be the name of my PBS show.) Rather than using a tape measure, pencil, and level, I eyeball it. Does the top edge appear parallel to the ceiling? Does it seem centered? For some reason, my perfectionist tendencies give me a pass when it comes to hanging things on walls.

Same when I write postcard poems. In 2020, at the beginning of my first Postcard Poetry Fest, I sat down with a batch of blank postcards and stared at them. What should I write? What if it’s not good?

You know what? I told myself. We’re just gonna eyeball it.

I thought about what was going on in my life and the news: covid kept me at home, my grandmother visited family through windows, President Trump was up to his usual shenanigans. I picked a topic and dashed out words that came to mind. Then, an image: Alice in Wonderland, the part where she drinks a potion and changes size.

My first postcard poem materialized:
These days are spent on porches
getting steadily drunker or caffeinated.
Do we not already experience
enough highs & lows to avoid
Alice’s temptations — this potion
making us bigger, this smaller?
Instead, we crave & create
our own drama, Greek comedies
& tragedies, drawing ourselves
up, letting ourselves down.

Not too bad, I thought, wondering how the postcard’s recipient might interpret it, but that didn’t matter. The poem was written, and the next one demanded to be crafted.

Every year now, that’s how my process starts: pick a situation, pair it with an image if one comes to mind (usually nature-themed), and wham! A poem. Writing quickly like this frees up my muse to try things out, make mistakes, and sometimes make poems I like. (You can read a few of my favorites at the end of this post.)

While spontaneous metaphors can emerge, other times I just write what’s on my mind, whether it’s my new cat getting neutered, my grief for a friend who committed suicide, events from my past (very therapeutic). One year, I wrote a series called “Summer Depression.” I might use the postcard image to inspire a poem, or use part of someone else’s poem as an epigraph. I even wrote once about Boris and Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle and their possible enjoyment of being tied up. (I’m sorry. / You’re welcome.)

Occasionally, I’ll write something I want to publish, but that isn’t the point. The point is to experiment, stretch my subconscious’ mind-muscles. It’s the reason I look forward to Postcard Poetry Fest every year.

From PPF 2021:
who cares whether or not
a boy likes you
question is
do you like you

in 6th grade I ignored
my “boyfriend” in the hallway at school
because I was shy
he broke up with me the next day

question is
do I forgive myself
for being afraid

on the Hatter’s table, teapot lids
clatter & shake from steam
pent up from the boil. years later
I realize this isn’t how teapots
work: you pour the boiling water
in, soak the teabags; it no longer
continues to heat.
so much
for the fantasy — maybe everything
in the real world is exactly
as it seems.

the only time I have ever
burned a book was last summer,
the fire I felt at subpar lines
that won an award better
deserved by others, not another
white male Brooklyn poet
wearing glasses & a scarf in his
bio photo. no — I set flame
to those pages, watched them crinkle
in the open grill at the park.
on the title page, he’d signed it
to someone: “your heart
is a cathedral!”
Well, he wasn’t wrong.

I pulled up all the basil yesterday
set flowering stalks on the butcher’s block
where tiny spiders ran for their lives.
We plucked off the leaves, discarded
stems in a paper bag destined for compost
& I squished the babies one by one
with an index finger, afraid to let
nature make its home in mine.

From PPF 2022:
the peach tree branch is breaking
by the weight of its own fruit —

too abundant
for its own good

“No, Hank!” yells the man
to his fleshy white
lab, who runs eagerly
across the field toward
me & my husband —

& why would Hank
listen, now, with two
familiar strangers in
sight, their hands
empty & waiting to
pat his flank?

Kat Bodrie is a poet and editor in Winston-Salem, NC. She is Book Editor for BleakHouse Publishing and Host City Coordinator for Poetry in Plain Sight. Her poetry has appeared in North Meridian Review, Poetry South, West Texas Literary Review, Rat’s Ass Review, and elsewhere. She often works with incarcerated individuals on their creative pieces. katbodrie.com

 

5 Comments

  1. David Winship

    I like the notion and the motion
    As ink flows or keys peck,
    What the neck
    Count me in
    For fun or sin
    It’ motivation!

  2. Splabman

    OK Dave. Registration is open and you are welcome to register.

  3. caren stuart

    I love everything about this post SO MUCH!!!

  4. Terri Gilmour

    I’m both motivated and intimidated by this post. Kat’s poems are so fluid, descriptive and meaningful. I understand this is a no-judgement project intended for us to share and connect. But I can’t help feeling apprehensive.

    As a first-timer I’m afraid my poems won’t be “good enough” and might bore or perhaps confuse the recipient. And yet, the notion of eyeballing it gives me inspiration and a wee bit of confidence to just start writing. Yeah, I get it. Set aside my editor hat and just write. Seeking perfection (or praise) is missing the point.

    Thank you Kat, for the nudge.

  5. Jade Li aka Lisa Fox

    Thanks for describing your process and sharing examples. The book burning one is my fave. Maybe see you on the popo trail.

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