How it works
Abhaya Thomas Cesar Postcard
Leggy Bruck Postard to Paul, back
Popluate Summer Dreams Postcard, Paul E Nelson
Postcard by Germán Montalvo
This is the official page for the Poetry Postcard Fest.
The fest is a self-guided 56 day workshop in spontaneous composition and community. Initiated in 2007, by poets Paul Nelson and Lana Ayers, it involves people signing up to send 31 original poems on postcards to folks on their list between July 4 and August 31. In 2023 the fest had 517 participants in 8 different countries and 44 different states and 5 Canadian provinces. (See 2023 stats here.) See this essay in Rattle Magazine about the fest.
Once you are registered here are the INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Obtain or make at least 31 postcards, one for each poet on your list. Buy Stamps.
Some people make their cards, but that is not a requirement. Store-bought cards are fine. Many places can turn your pictures into cards, as can any decent print shop. Make sure you print on decent card stock. Glossy is hard to write on. You do not have to send one to yourself.
2. After you register, and once your group has filled,
you will get a list via email and pdf. This will be on July 4 or after. You will get your group list when there are 32 in your group on or after July 4, when registration ends.
3. Once you get your list, start writing original poems directly (1st take) onto postcards addressed to the names below you on the list of poets.
(If you are #8 on the list, start with #9 and proceed from there.) Just like you’d write a typical postcard, only this one is a poem and linked to the epistle form, as you are writing TO someone. The idea is to practice spontaneity, that is write directly on the card in one take. If that is hard at the start of the fest to do write spontaneously directly onto the card, it gets better as the month goes on. Remember, no one can publish your poem without your permission and you are writing to one PERSON. (Usually a stranger, so act accordingly. Would you tell a stranger about your sex life? Probably not on the first card.) DON’T INSULT PEOPLE TO WHOM YOU WRITE. (Write in the spirit of community.)
Review the links below for guidance ESPECIALLY the sending postcards to strangers blog post by David Sherman, the Ina Roy-Faderman testimonial and Linda Crosfield’s 7.14.16 blog post. Remember Allen Ginsberg’s paraphrase of the Blake quote: “Abstractions and Generalizations are the plea of the hypocrite, knave and scoundrel.” Or as Ezra Pound said: “Abstractions must be earned.” Really.
4. Once you have written cards to all poets below your name on your list, continue to the top of your group of 32.
Ideally you’ll be incorporating themes, tones or motifs from cards you have received. If you do not get cards from participants right away, or are not inspired by them, no problem, but do write at least 31 postcard poems if you sign up. That is what we ask you to honor more than anything else.
5. Don’t Post Your Own Poems Online Until a Month After You Send Them.
Also, do not publish anyone else’s poem without their written permission. Having a scanner helps to archive the image perfectly and scanners are not expensive. Or you could take a photo of the image (or scan it) with your cellphone. Do realize if you are sending a card abroad, it may take longer than a month and costs more to send. U.S. participants, get international stamps EVEN FOR CANADA. Do not disclose any participant’s address online.
6. There is a Facebook page for the Poetry Postcard Fest but best to let the cards speak for themselves during the fest.
Once September starts, anything is fair game except spam. You might want to write after the fest about your experience. NEVER spam the list about any product or service, including your books.
7. The fest is open to people who contribute at least $15.00 U.S. to the Cascadia Poetics Lab. (That includes the service charge. When earlybird registration ends, the price goes up. Some scholarships to cover registration are made available by generous participants. Ask us for one.)
I want to be a resource for you especially if you are trying to make the shift from relentless editing to learning how to develop trust for your instincts. This is the force behind the fest and, I think, the reason that it has grown in popularity over the years. There are costs to maintaining the email list (Mailchimp, Funraise &c.) and website. This event is produced by the Cascadia Poetics Lab and provides enough for us to pay some bills. Contributions are welcome & we SO appreciate those who give a little more. Thank you.
8. In 2017, Ina Roy and J.I. Kleinberg and I created a postcard anthology.
See THIS LINK.
To stay up to date on Poetry Postcard Fest information, subscribe to this blog. We send out an average of two emails a week from this blog, the literary arts-oriented non-profit org founded in 1993. We don’t sell your info.
9. Other pages nearby worth a look regarding postcards and spontaneous composition
are on the drop down nav below the Poetry Postcard Fest link above and here
- 2019 Wrapups
- Lara Phelps 2019 Wrapup
- Amy Miller’s 2016 Fest Wrap-up.
- Or Amy’s 2018 wrap-up.
- Judy Kleinberg’s 2014 fest summary with links to other participant blogs.
- Her 2015 fest wrap-up.
- Angélique Jamail’s 2018 afterword.
- https://paulenelson.com/2013/06/24/the-tao-of-postcards/ and
- https://paulenelson.com/workshops/poetry-postcard-exercise/ and
- https://changeorder.typepad.com/weblog/2010/08/sending-postcards-to-strangers.html &