Thursday, September 05, 2019



The average sized postcard, 4"x6", hasn't got that big an area on which to write. But every summer for a month, give or take, poets from all over the USA plus some from Canada, Europe, Australia, Singapore, India and more manage to write poems on them and send them off into the world. The annual August Postcard Poem Fest (APPF) is over for another year. I mailed the last of mine September 3rd. I promised at least a couple more bonus cards and will get them done shortly, but right now it's time to gather some thoughts about this year's event. So this is kind of an open letter to Group 2.

Cards received from Group 2 (plus four "bonus" cards) (so far)
APPF13 — August 2019, as of Sept. 4, 2019
Right off the mark I have to admit I cheated as far as the very minimal rules are concerned. Actually, they're not rules per se, more like suggestions from Paul Nelson as to how to write postcard poems. He advocates for the down and dirty approach, that is, to write the poem directly onto the card without editing.

Some years I've been comfortable first-drafting directly to the card, but this wasn't one of them. I've not been writing a lot of late so that muscle was feeling a little rusty when August began. I sketched out poems on paper or in the Word doc where I keep a record of all the ones I send. I just started jotting down little blurts and some of the blurts turned into poems. I did, in the process, change the odd line break and there was maybe just a bit of editing. I've approached the fest this way before, but this year, perhaps because it was a return to my earlier way of getting poems onto cards, felt different. More intentional, somehow, and ultimately more satisfying. But slow. I'd come downstairs to my desk to write and spend two hours with one poem, one card.

The very first year I did this (2007) I wrote and mailed a card a day almost every day. I took blank cards with me when I hiked up to Kokanee Glacier for a couple of days, just so I could stick with the writing part of the plan.

(from Day 13, 2007)


You escape into a corner
pull out some cards
and begin to write.
Then someone wants to know
what on earth you’re doing that for, 
a twitter of disbelief 
flitters round the room
where people come and go
talking of vanishing glaciers
and pink snow.
If the door opened right this moment
and an elephant walked in
it would probably cause less of a fuss.

This year I seemed to work in batches. I had six in the mail at the end of July, then August arrived with distractions both predictable and not; a dear friend died; lots of company showed up to hang with, play with, laugh with, and eat with; my ninety-nine year-old mother keeps three of us hopping. Contrary to how I thought I was going to approach writing to the poets on my list (see last post; I was going to put all the cards, stamped and addressed as they were, into a bag and pull them out randomly) I ended up writing them in order, starting with the name below mine and carrying on from there.

The first nine poems I wrote/sent all incorporate a line of Shakespeare's. After I mailed the first of them I realized I had forgotten to indicate that. Mea culpa. (Most of the lines are pretty familiar, of the "to be or not to be" variety so you probably figured that out!) Three poems fell under "Ice Musings". The last ten ended up being a hodgepodge of little poems that fall under the title of Notes on the Story of Me #1–10. The rest are pretty random. I wrote two poems about snakes, one on Hurricane Dorian, a couple of Mom poems, a response poem written around the word "oubliette", one about the band Rush and an old friend, another about knocking on doors in Toronto for Dan Heap of the NDP in the early eighties, and one about a much-loved pair of jeans. Other than the NDP one and another that referenced Jeffery Epstein that was written before his death, I stayed away from politics. (Everyone on my list is in the States. What can I say?) Oh, except for one I wrote for Rita Wong, a BC poet and activist who was just released from jail after receiving a 28-day sentence for peacefully protesting a pipeline expansion here in British Columbia. Rita and Fred Wah published a gorgeous long poem (well, two poems; they each wrote one) about the Columbia River titled Beholden: a poem as long as the river, and if you care anything about this river our countries share (the treaty of which is in the process of being renewed), you might want to check it out.

Rita and Fred's book, taken in front of the Columbia River
near the confluence of it and the Kootenay River
Anyhow, that gives you an idea of how this year was for me.

I'm a bit of a hoarder, especially when it comes to pieces of paper with writing on them. As a result, I have all the cards I've received since this fest began, and last night I got this great idea that it would be really neat to spread them all out on the floor and get up on a ladder and take a picture, so this morning I  got into the Postcard Poem files and quickly realized the extent of my madness! Like, yes, I could do that but then the years would get all mixed up and I'd probably find myself spending a ridiculous amount of time sorting them again. So this will have to suffice:

Cards received over the 13 years APPF has been happening

But just digging them out and randomly looking through them—oh what gems I found! See that one of the painted tree under 2009? That was one of the late Bridget Nutting's. And remember how I mentioned, above, that a friend of mine died in August? Her poem begins, You died today... and ends 

The sky is empty now.
Even the squirrels are lost.
The birds no longer sing your praise.
Goodbye, dear friend.

I came across so many familiar names. We've been exchanging words for so long now you all feel kind of like family! As I started going through them I thought of how one year I got one from Diane di Prima. What were the odds I'd accidentally find it, in 2008?  

2010 was a light year as far as incoming went—received 21, but there are some beautiful lines to be found in that pile. 

Paul Nelson's 2011 ripe plum moon poem was mailed from Beijing! (I haven't sent you one yet this year, Paul, but I will). 

In 2012 I came across a lovely poem from another long-time postcarder who is no longer with us: Kay Kinghammer. There's another stunning original art one from Bridget with a poem written in her lovely cursive. And a very funny one from my friend Kim Clark. 

Bridget Nutting's 2011 card to me

Poems received in 2013 include a beautiful "late summer haiku" from Laura Pena. We exchanged cards again this year! 

In 2014 I got one from Judy Kleinberg that—wait for it—isn't one of her marvellous found poems like the one you can read here! And another winner from Kay Kinghammer. 

I think 2015 was the first year I got one from Terry Holtzman. Like Laura, we exchanged again this year. And Diane Conces, the same. And there's even one from my friend who died last month! He and his wife were traveling in Holland that year and sent a card. I knew which one was from Paul because I recognized his handwriting.

Going through the 2016 cards I find one from fellow cat-lover, Linda Roller. She's on this year's list, too. 

In 2017 there's one from Alan Kahn, on this year's list as well. More and more original art cards are in the mix every year. A delightful line pulled from a poem sent from Hartford, CT: Can you imagine Donald Trump as a bird watcher? And there's a beautiful poem about sons from Seattle. And one from Charlie Stobert in England, brought to me thanks to the assistance of a couple of wonderful David Bowie stamps. And one from Abhaya Thomas, also in this year's group, that contains the gorgeous line, you only see colours you can name

2018. Last year's bunch. So many familiar names in this batch as well. It's hard to set a lace unicorn free says Annie Stenzel in the haunting poem on her card. I'm so glad she did. 

Annie Stenzel's lace unicorn, APPF12, 2018
While I was going through those files pulling out the cards, I found scads of blank ones (just what I needed!) plus half-a-dozen or so that have poems written on them but were never addressed or sent. Why? I have no idea. 

Finally, I have to single out one postcarder who signed up somewhere around 2012 after hearing about it from me and has been sending me the occasional card ever since. I first remember Judy Wapp at a summer writing workshop with Caroline Woodward we attended back in 1989, I believe it was. In 1991 we both signed up for another writing workshop, this time with Tom Wayman. A guy named Ted Crosfield signed up for that one, too, and the rest, as they say, is history! You can read more about Judy and her collage art on my blog here. Anyway, sorting through the cards today allowed me to see just how many cards she's sent me (42!) and while I know I've send some in return, her output is nothing short of amazing. So thank you, Judy!

Judy's cards
Judy Wapp
And thank you, all of you who sign up for the August Postcard Poem Fest. We began, most of us, as strangers, but somehow the act of getting a few words onto a postcard and sending it off into the world serves to remind us of our similarities instead of focusing on our differences, as it would seem some of our politicians, both sides of the border, would prefer. 

You give me hope. And that's no small thing. 



Mary Beth said...

A wonderful share of a wonderful journey - thanks!

Caroline Woodward said...

Dear Linda, You continue to amaze and inspire with your creative projects of all kinds. Go Poetry Goddess Go!

Unknown said...

Your recalling the joys of 13 years of PoPo-ing was just what I needed to read.
My journey is just two years long and I struggle with inspiration at times.
Reading of the ebb and flow of the various years encourages me to keep my mind
on the fest and to write thru the year to things that strike me and maybe the
eerie co-incidence of those who receive them.
Peace and love

S.E.Ingraham said...

This was a luxurious read, Linda - if, for no other reason, the remembrance of friends already gone. Thanks for taking us back and forth to now. I really enjoyed myself.

Bluechip said...

You could spread out each of those thirteen piles, one by one, take a photo, and then "reorganize" into the pile. Then string together those photos with a short reflection on each.
Once a day for thirteen days up and down the ladder and then you can justify not doing the stair step machine at the fitness center on those days.

Something to think about next winter when you are snowed in.

Abhaya said...

Loved hearing about your postcard history, Linda! So true how we can feel like we know these folks we've never met and most likely never will. Till next year.