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I did not get a chance to write about my experience with the 12th August POetry POstcard Fest yesterday as I was leaving Ian, Jennifer and Gavia Boyden and their home on San Juan Island with my daughter Ella. We had been there to help Ian celebrate his NEA award to translate the poetry of Tibetan poet Tsering Woeser.

(Photo by Ian Boyden)

There were several noteworthy developments for me in this past fest. I abandoned epigraphs to start the poems and instead went with a seriality, or sequential effort. I recorded Sam Hamill a few years ago discussing this impulse, or approach, and just listened again to his words. Hear them here. As to the why of seriality/sequential, hear this. His thoughts are very much in sync with the spontaneous methods that I’ve alluded to many times before and helpful in understanding the APPF’s emphasis on spontaneity.

Sam was a presence during this festival not just in this sequential method, but in the content as well. I mentioned him directly in 18 of my 45 poems and indirectly in a few more. I went to his books for inspiration and could even hear what I pegged to be his own voice coming into one of the poems. I put all of his words from two different books of poetry into wordclouds and wrote a poem based on that and others which used phrases derived from his wordclouds:





754. Sam’s Rain Mask to Libby Maxey was a good example of Sam’s influence coming in through wordclouds. Others coming through the poems included Corita Kent, Georgia O’Keeffe, Kenneth Rexroth. Ted Joans, Emanuel Swedenborg, Basho, Denise Levertov, Leonard Cohen, Ian, Jennifer and Gavia Boyden, Jack Kerouac, Van Morrison, Pat Metheny, Patricia Barber, Ed Varney, Gary Snyder, John Coltrane, Michael McClure, Langston Hughes, Merce Cunningham and Stanley DelGozo. I loved the postcards of his that came to me and Bhakti, as they were casual, authentic postcards that were very immediate and very much out of his own experience written to us. Not an attempt to write great literature, but to simply connect us with his huge heart. Thank you Stanley.

Ella Nelson, August 2018, American Camp, San Juan Island

As Amy Miller did in her fest this year, as reported in her 2018 wrap-up, I composed many poems in clumps and then sat-out a couple of days. You have to get the poems while the mood is right and also strike when there are no six year olds vying with the muse for attention.

Some things that DID get my attention during the “month” included specular reflectance, my older daughter Rebecca’s engagement, the (sans U.S.) World Cup and, as always, the domestic terror of the Blue Angels.

That was early in the fest. Once I was clearly past the bar of my required 32 poems (we had an extra poet in the first few groups this year) I was liberated to take time and create collage cards, which was a very satisfying way to end the fest and send bonus cards to some friends and other poets handpicked from groups 2 through 4. I wish I could have done more. Examples include one EARLY collage poem that was a collage front and back. The back was made up of words taken from other sources, like a ransom note and did not arrive in one piece:

One collage went to Ina Roy-Faderman, the driving force behind the 56 Days of August: Poetry Postcards anthology:

The last one went to Aaron Kokorowski:

And then September came. Ugh. Moving “august” up into July seems just fine to me, but moving August into September does not. Maybe it’s because September is my birth month. Maybe because I have backpacking to do, which I have done most Septembers since 1995. I don’t know, but each year the August POetry POstcard Fest gets better. As Judy Jensen said:

Thanks to Paul and Lana for kicking off the August Poetry Postcard Festival and to Paul, for continuing to steward this creative endeavor from year to year. As a longtime participant, the fest has become a fixed part of the calendar, as established as Easter or Thanksgiving or Christmas. It’s been lovely to see old timers’ names from year to year, and new poets popping up each year. I appreciate all of your poems, postcards, and thoughts here in the Facebook Group and wish you the very best of luck with your poetry. Until next year— Judy Jensen

This is something postcarding during other times of year does not achieve. And an attempt to alleviate the confusion about starting a fest that has the word August in its name, but starts in July, I am considering that word, august, an adjective in this context and not a proper noun. That should solve things.

The countdown clock on the official fest page has been reset to July 4, 2019 at 12:01am PST. This means there are 305 days of the year that are NOT part of the fest, but the PoPo police are not stopping folks from continuing to send bonus cards in the “off-season.” I intend to give late-senders some slack and write about cards I got before too long.

Paul E Nelson, August 2018, photo by Bhakti M. Watts.