Ten Years of Postcard Fest

Hamma Hamma

Hamma Hamma

The tenth year of the August POetry POstcard Fest is under way and there are seven full groups of 32 poets, 224 participants in all, which is a record for the fee era.

And there are participants from Alabama, Alberta, Australia, British Columbia, California, Connecticut, England, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, India, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New Zealand, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Scotland, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. (I think I got everybody, but my eyes are getting blurry when I even look at an excel file after two weeks of intensive registration.)

And there have been two astute testimonials to the fest’s true essence, spontaneous composition. One by Ina Roy-Faderman (who is the main force behind the poetry postcard anthology 56 Days of August) and one by Linda Crosfield, who is a ten year vet. Besides Linda, Judy Jensen and I, there must be other ten year veteran postcarders, (please come forward) but I can’t remember right now and no more excel files for a while.

And I am not so anal about people not writing spontaneously now. If they want to cheat themselves out of the experience, that’s their loss. I explained to a writer friend that, for best effect, one should use Preparation H as directed, but if you put it on a cracker, you might get some good out of it, so more power to you.

And there have been numerous emails and Facebook messages to me, thanking me for the work done to get the lists out and for keeping this thing going. It is a joy for me to be involved and an honor to be of use in such a novel way. Thank you for believing in this, for telling friends, for participating and (hopefully) for experiencing the joy of getting to be the first person to read a card that you wrote with the aid of the ghosts of postcard past.

Happy carding. I will again post all cards I have written and write a summary once I have finished writing at least 32.

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Ina Roy-Faderman’s Postcard Testimonial

From Ina Roy-Faderman:

“All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.”

― Tahereh MafiShatter Me

Ina foto 1 IMG_3920Like a lot of writers, I’m a bit of a loner and more than a bit of a night owl. Nighttime is comfortable, because I can be alone and listen to the world; it’s the time when I can most easily hear the words forming in my head. But sometimes, the night becomes a big, lonely place. It’s a deep loneliness – and it doesn’t matter whether I’m in San Francisco, on Interstate 80 cutting across Nebraska, the streets of Calcutta, or a tiny flat in Cologne. It’s not about being away from people; it’s about suddenly feeling unsure that you can truly share yourself with another person. You can be married, or live in a group home, or have children, or share your life with many non-human animals and still suddenly feel like you have a bubble of glass around you. You can see everything – but you can’t hear anyone speak.

About four years ago, I experienced an extended period of such disconnectedness – of feeling like I was just brushing shoulders with other living beings instead of seeing them completely and wholly. It was damaging my relationships, and there was a big aching gap where writing should have been. In passing, a friend told me that she was “doing this thing” called the August Poetry Postcard Festival.  In the Festival, your name and address was placed on a list with many (100s) of other poets. Each of you would write a poem on a postcard each day and send it to the next person on the list. Eventually each of the poets would have written and received 31 poems, from people they’d never met and might never meet in person.

My friend’s timing was one of those pieces of serendipity that remind me that I’m a human animal and not just a thinking machine: sending a postcard every day to someone I probably didn’t know would let me reach out to other people with my most immediate thoughts — the thoughts I was having trouble hearing —and to be the recipient of a moment of someone’s truth.

As David Sherwin says so eloquently (http://changeorder.typepad.com/weblog/2010/08/sending-postcards-to-strangers.html) , committing to writing every day — sending an arrow straight to your own heart (because Ina foto 2 IMG_3919you don’t have time to overthink your words) — lets the words and the feelings connect up on that little piece of cardstock. Paradoxically, the constraints of time and space free you from a kind of perfectionism that so many artists (yes, me too) suffer from. And whatever happens — well, the words are out in space to touch someone else.  And someone is sending you an essential moment of themselves – out of the goodness of their hearts, out of a willingness to commit to a piece of deep honesty and trust — which you get to hold in your hands.

This will be my fourth year of participating in the Fest, and I can’t describe how much I’m looking forward to August. Every day from around the end of July to sometime in September, I will have a touch of someone else’s mind in the moment that they set their hand to paper.

That first August Fest was so fulfilling for me, as a person and as a writer, that it motivated me to offer my participation in other 30-poems-in-30-days events (most recently, the Tupelo Press 30/30 project). I enjoy them all, and they give me that same sense of freedom and honesty, as well as keeping me in touch with my inner creative spirit. But every year I also return to the August Postcard Poetry Fest, because unlike most of these events, it’s a conversation – some people in the Fest continue the conversation  year-round — between people who understand the inherent loneliness of the human condition and the need to find moments of connection within it.  I encourage you to try it – this month of getting to know some interesting people, including yourself.

The photo above is one of the books in which I keep the postcards I have received over the past years – I’ve tried to keep all of them. When I’m standing in the yard with my dog (because the dog and cats stay awake with me if I’m up late writing) and I’m feeling stricken by that sense of awesome loneliness that one gets from looking up at the sky at 2 a.m., I go back inside, curl up on the couch with one of the books, and look through it — touching, briefly, the hearts of the friends I’ve never met.

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August Poetry Postcard Fest Official Call Year Ten

Collage by Kristen Cleage

Collage by Kristen Cleage

The August Poetry Postcard Fest was initiated in 2007 by poets Paul Nelson and Lana Ayers. 2016 marks the tenth year of the fest and this is your official call.

Directions to participate in the fest are linked here. 

This year poets will be organized in groups of 32 and the list will be released as each group gets the required amount of participants. The signup will end July 17 at 11:59pm PDT. There will be a $10 fee (+ service charge to participate this year which will go to stage the Cascadia Poetry Festival in 2016.) The page at which to register is: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2067076 

http://paulenelson.com/august-poetry-postcard-fest/ is the main page for the fest. The signup period only lasts two weeks this year and NOT until July 27, so take note and plan accordingly.

2016 is the first year funds go directly to the Cascadia Poetry Festival and is the first chance for ticket-buyers to get their Gold Pass for the 2016 Fest in Seattle. (See the link on the signup page at BPT.) A contribution of $10 covers the fest.  $35 more gets you a Gold Pass and entry to all CPF events. (Space is limited, so get to fest events early.) We’re also asking for participants to cover the small costs BPT takes to handle the funds and signup process. There will be an anthology made up of poems from this year’s fest. See: http://www.56daysofaugust.com/ and http://paulenelson.com/2016/06/14/56-days-of-august-the-august-postcard-fest-anthology/


1. Make sure you want to do this. It means writing at least 31 original poems onto cards and mailing them by August 31. We’re going to allow folks to start early this year so if you sign up, there are no excuses short of (lord forbid) injuries, sickness or other unfortunate events. But if you sign up, send 31 cards.

2. Look to see where your name is on your list. Make sure the info is correct. LET ME KNOW ASAP IF NOT. Each group will have 32 poets, so each list will be a closed loop and early signees will not be penalized by waiting for the last minute registrants to sign up. This year, it pays to get in early. I’ll send the whole list to all participants when registration has closed.

3. When you see your name, send three original poems to those three people JUST BELOW your name. ie: #10 on the list should send cards to: # 11 #12 & #13. Do it before July 27. If you want to send more, that’s ok. If you are at the bottom of the list, start with the names at the very top. ie: #32 will send to #1, #2 & #3. No later than August 1, start sending postcards until you have sent at least 31 total, continuing down from your name. (Some people also pick out a few extra poets, friends, neighbors, and write 35 or 40! I will provide all the participant addresses if you want them, but not until the list is final.)

4. Once you start receiving poems, see if there is a thread, a tone, an image, a fragrance, something that can inspire you in the next poem you send. Please refer to the call and the handy links there for more help on the how of this. http://paulenelson.com/august-poetry-postcard-fest and other links there. If you don’t get inspired from cards you receive, no biggie. Just write and mail.

If you have people from outside your country on the list YOU MUST SEND EXTRA POSTAGE. From the US, a card anywhere across the border costs $1.15 in postage, or FOUR .34c POSTCARD stamps. Some people recognize that the stamp itself can add flair to the card. If you send oversized cards, you’ll need a .47c stamp in the U.S. See: http://postcalc.usps.com/Postcards.aspx

6. If you are on Facebook, check out the Facebook Postcard Fest page. Many people get excited about the fest, but I would suggest writing your poems and then chatting about it on the Facebook page or other social media AFTER the fest. Let’s try to recreate a feeling of the time (gasp) BEFORE SOCIAL MEDIA. That page will be moderated this year and posts will not be allowed if the spirit of the fest is violated.

7. DO NOT POST YOUR POEMS ONLINE UNTIL 30 DAYS AFTER THEY GET SENT and more if the card was sent overseas. Pity to see it online before it arrives in the box. Kinda defeats the purpose. Also, ASK PERMISSION to post other people’s poems. OK? The image is fair game, but make sure the poet who sent you the poem grants permission for you to publish in any way.

8. Just putting this list together is a task. If you can get a question about the fest answered by reading something here (and all the links above) please do. Leave a comment in the comment section.

9. Document your cards before sending them out. Scanning both sides is one way, if you have a home scanner. Then re-typing the poems and recreating the line breaks is the way I have done it. There are many examples on the blog. See: http://paulenelson.com/august-poetry-postcard-fest-2014-afterword/ and http://paulenelson.com/august-poetry-postcard-fest-2013-afterword/ and http://paulenelson.com/august-poetry-postcard-fest-2015-afterword-2/

10. Have fun. This fest is designed to get you to trust your gut in the act of composition. Learning about the traditions of spontaneity in North American poetry and other disciplines has been life-changing for me and if you participate with trust in the process, you’ll also experience some degree of liberation, a little high, or both. Goddess-speed.

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