In years past I have taken time on the 1st of September to write my POPO afterword. If felt like a ritual to end each extended August with a meditation on what I had done, followed by a photo or video of the cards I received. That it is part of my own personal campaign to extend August to 56 days. Sorry July, no offense, but you get the holiday August does not have because in part it is not jingoistic, which is why POPO is global. Not to put a pox on your Pax Americana, USAmerica, but we’re bioregional and global at the same time.
& POPO this year was moved up to the vernal equinox, much to the chagrin of a good number of people who associate postcards with warm temperatures. Once it got to be “August” (July 6 or so), I could feel their pain and by then I was already into my second group of 31 cards so maybe the last group of 31, group 17, is the REAL August contribution from me this year, we’ll see. It’s hard to go over one’s own work, but I tend to do it once and then see cards pop up in my journal entries when I look at them a year after they were composed.
The big shift for me during this iteration of POPO was to create the card’s image AFTER composing. Sometimes I had a basic idea of what the image would be. Other times I searched online for a suitable image that would be the main part of a postcard’s picture side. Either way it has given my work a deeper consistency that was not necessarily what I was after all these years, but feels like a positive development.
All my poems this year were part of a series called Poems from the Pandemic and all were numbered with a number that corresponds to the number of postcard poems I had written up to that point. There was a subtitle of each poem as well. On to the 98 cards if my counting was accurate and that’s not always the case.
1. The first one went to Canada, which is fitting, as I love Canada and could move there given the right conditions. 872. (Promised Weapons) I’d been thumbing through Paul Celan’s Breathturn and was using lines from that book as jumping off points for the meditations on life in the early COVID lockdown period. I thought it was going to be worse than it turned out to be (so far) hence the reference to eating out of cans at the end.
2. My next poem 873. (Sneeze At) (also to a Canadian) was my sense of the first glimpse of how our world was being given a dose of the duende. You may know Federico Garcia Lorca’s essay Theory and Play of the Duende. A force that is present when there is the possibility of death, a notion that is SO Spanish, but hugely relevant in times like these. It ends:
The duende….Where is the duende? Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents: a wind with the odour of a child’s saliva, crushed grass, and medusa’s veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created things.
3. 874. (Soup Retreat) reflects the tenor of the response to lockdown that Bhakti (Watts) and I had from the beginning. Aside from the death (& we know at least one person who has died from this and others who have died during this time) aside from the departures, we love this time. We were born to be partial to the monastic life and the lockdown was a good excuse.
4. 875. (Trending Hashtag) was written in response to the minority opinion in USAmerica that human lives are not as important as capitalism, which my good friend Jason Wirth says “cannot take a sabbatical.” The Lt. Governor of Texas came out and said this point blank on a “news” program on March 24. For those outside the U.S., you can read this and begin to see part of why we’ve been so incompetent in responding to the pandemic. Oh that plus an illiterate strongman as “leader.”
5. 876. (Stay Sane). More on the development of the “monastic option” as Morris Berman called it.
6. 877. (Who Else?) One failed prophecy and an early look at lockdown through an 8 year old’s eyes.
7. 878. (RIP Curly Neal) One interesting aspect of POPO for me over the years has been writing elegies for people whose deaths moved me to do so. Max Roach and Bobby Hutcherson died during previous fests. This year the first to go was a Globetrotter who inspired my friend Carl to start playing basketball as an 8 year old. I think the same thing happened to me.
8. 879. (Dream Tusks) I love it when my dreams can inspire poems. Dreams relate personal mythology on a deep level and the interpretation of them is an art which I’ve followed for about 30+ years.
9. 880. (COVID Rituals) How could we ever move from a front row seat on a 19 mile long lake that has a view of Cascade Foothills and the most wildlife we’ve ever been exposed to on a regular basis, including Ospreys, Eagles, Geese, Coots, Seagulls, Beavers, Red Winged Blackbirds, Hummingbirds, Ducks, Otters and more. And reporting on the daily rituals that were emerging early in the lockdown were important for my own process.
10. 881. (Not Yet) More on the emerging COVID-19 Lockdown rituals.
11. 882. (Mailman from Maywood) Another elegy, this time hitting close to home as John Prine submits to the virus. I think it also was the first postcard whose front side (image) was created AFTER the composing of the poem was finished.
12. 883. (Rabbit Shitlist) More still life with rabbits. How summer walks are structured in part around routes that will give us access to what rabbits might eat along with a glimpse of our emerging lockdown diet and playlist.
13. 884. (Groundhog Day) More on diet and how lockdown life was beginning to feel like the Bill Murray movie. Now I am searching the web for images that go with the content, so about here or the card before I am letting poem content dictate the imagery. This was a huge transition for me in my POPO method.
14. 885. (Moose Java) This postcard was inspired by one of those early COVID-19 lockdown maps which had a line of counties from Mexico to Canada that were contiguous and had not (by then) reported a COVID infection. Card and poem focused around that notion and the nickname of someone who lives in or is from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada.
15. 886. (Umbra Mundi Mercy) Homage to TP, Hand Sanitizer and other USAmerican early lockdown products seen essential to survival or comfort. (I loved the graphic I got online for my collage.)
16. 887. (Mallard Fury, a Nostalgic Crunch) was inspired by David Pollard’s book Nietzsche’s Footfalls.
17. 888. (R.I.P. Lee) Technically April when alto sax legend and final surviving Birth of the Cool sessions member Lee Konitz died, it’s August to me and this launched me on a Spotify Konitz binge.
18. 889. (Matching Masks) The mask culture enters the series.
19. 890. (317 E. 32nd) Back to Konitz.
20. 891. (Arginine Blues) Charles Olson, migraine headaches and amino acids. (One of them anyway.)
21. 892. (Lucid Grief) A postcard that’s a poem AND a card of condolence.
22. 893. (And Now, The Queen) Part of my Carla Bley/Steve Swallow kick this August.
23. 894. (A Dark Card w/ Words) More Carla. This one helped me begin a series outside of POPO on Carla Bley.
24. 895. (Surplus Rhetoric) It turns out that the split between poetry (I’ll call it REAL poetry) and rhetoric, the subject of this poem, turned out to be one of the ongoing obsessions of this August. My experience with the Community of Writers at Sq—- Valley deepened this issue for me. Sharon Thesen turned me back to the Charles Olson essay Human Universe, but that would not be until July, so I was stewing on some level by then.
25. 896. (Rebellion Reason) The first postcard and poem I wrote after the passing of one of my great poetry mentors, Michael McClure. Even today I feel the grief welling up as I think about his passing. He wrote an essay entitled Reason that was inspired by being opened in Subud and doing the Latihan Kedjiwaan, my own spiritual practice for over 15 years. He also occasionally referred to himself as the Rebel Lion which, if you put the words together spell rebellion, which was also a theme of this summer, though the word used was “resistance.”
26. 897. (Black Plasma) More on McClure. One interesting thing to note is that this collage got a sticker that came from the actual book I packed into Olympic National Park in 1995 and which spurred my “More Alive Than I Ought To Be” experience and a long investigation of McClure’s work.
27. 898. (Quiet & Clear) Maybe McClure getting into the bardo helped my own communication with my Dad.
28. 899. (Blue-Black Swallows) More musing on what McClure’s sources might have been, mixed with imagery from the natural world in front of our house and one of the best collages I have ever accomplished.
29. 900. (Blue-Black Bullets) More on McClure AND our view.
30. 901. (Touching The Heart-Mind’s Edge) More McClure. He had a book called Touching The Edge: Dharma Devotions from the Hummingbird Sangha. Maybe that’s where I got the idea that our condo here on Lake Washington could be known as Casa Del Colibrí.
32. 903. (COVID Saga) More views out the window with some philosophy by my Brother Jason Wirth.
33. 904. (Peasant Food) More McClure but this time with a major theme and lesson of the COVID-19 lockdown. Because we could not go out to eat, except for the occasional “togo” order (usually sushi) we started experimenting with recipes and moving our diet more toward the pescatarian preferences of Bhakti Watts. Around this time I started calling our diet “peasant food” but in a loving way. And we are essentially Cascadian peasants anyway.
35. 906. (Outlasting) Features my own drawing of one of our pet rabbits Talula. (No ‘h”.) Rabbits are a metaphor for connection to the non-human world and a gage of progress in the quest for individuation.
36. 907. (Watching the Returns) More Michael. More views out the window. More peasant food, though the halibut bought at the local co-op (PCC) is stretching that notion a bit. (It has been the longest halibut season ever!) A bit of Sam Hamill to end the poem which, appropriately enough, was written on part of a saké box.
37. 908. (Comfort Food) All this talk about peasant food and when a poem comes up titled “Comfort Food”, it’s about music. Go figure.
40. 911. (As You Say It) A George Floyd poem, written on one last side of that saké box with another McClure reference. That it was #911 in a series is either poignant or ironic.
41. 912. (Except Closer) Another McClure reference and a reference to the elegiac theme of the lockdown. Postcards are an elegy to summer in a way, as the days are getting shorter by the time the fest comes around, but this expanded August had more of an elegy feel with all the death happening.
43. 914. (Pure Song / Crow Bath) It is interesting that this poetry postcard has an indigenous feel to it and alludes to a spiritual experience I had at a corner that sits atop a former Duwamish settlement.
44. 915. (Billionairism) Great term for what capitalism has become in Trump’s USAmerica. A whole McClure poem on the front serving as a prompt. The person who this card was addressed to sent a condolence card to me after McClure died, so I sent her a McClure book and then this card.
46. 917. (Upside of Bird Brain) is a continuation of the alternative music theme introduced with poems about Carla Bley, Steve Swallow and others, as well as a poem inspired by the natural setting here at our condo on Lake Washington.
47. 918. (Heron Concentration) Another poem inspired by the natural setting here at our condo on Lake Washington.
48. 919. (Father’s Day Earrings) Best ear postcard ever.
49. 920. (Righteous Fire) A very political poem, as George Floyd’s alleged crime was apparently trying to pass off a counterfeit $20. Was his life worth only $20? The fact that the white supremacists in charge of the U.S. also prevented the $20 from having Harriet Tubman on it was part of the subtext.
50. 921. (Goose Fight) Based on a real-life incident we saw right there on the lake.
51. 922. (Ugly Poem) Written in response to a literary lecture that defended the “treacly.” I’m not kidding. Best ugly toe card ever & I think the last time a part of my body festooned a postcard this August.
52. 923. (I Got it Good) The first of my postcards which used as the image my prostate cancer status updates I posted on Facebook. I love the Spotify shuffle mode as divination via music.
53. 924. (Residues of Desire) The second of my prostate cancer status update cards and with this one start to get into the personal mythology component of the experience which was a huge part of it for me and a huge reason why things went so well, aside from my own guidance, which is recollected in part on this post.
54. 925. (Less Than Spirit) Wanda Coleman has been a presence in my life since I met her at Bumbershoot in 1999 and she blew me away with her ferocious stage presence and general being. I have been writing “prose sonnets” the last couple of years inspired in part by her American Sonnets and she was starting to also come back into the postcards in 2020. Also a reference to McClure’s work in this poem.
55. 926. (Pop’s Secrets) Talk about personal mythology! I miss you Pop.
56. 927. (Hospital Pond) I think this was the last of the prostate cancer updates.
57. 928. (Joe Lovano’s Sound of Love) One of the great developments of the lockdown was the live streaming of concerts at the Village Vanguard. That I had seen Joe Lovano at the actual Vanguard my only time there (in 2019) made this night (& poem) sweeter. I did follow through and get a pork pie hat like Joe’s: More Wanda in this poem and a reference to the Mingus composition Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love.
58. 929. (Much Chanted Wall) Another political poem. Going back I love the equation: MAGA = Plague State which works in ways besides COVD response. & what an image of the flag.
59. 930. (Chipping Away (short game)) It did not take long for that hat to arrive and show up in a poem. More Wanda, a reference to seriality and more butterflies in the collage. There is something of the personal myth in this one too, not to mention golf as metaphor for individuation quest.
60. 931. (Glaciers & Penmanship) Summer finally arrives in Seattle, which is fine with us. Once it did, we started getting into the woods more and woods in Cascadia means access to glaciers and nature that has really spoiled us. Penmanship is also the next frontier of my own postcard process.
61. 932. (Pressure Wash) More politics. More McClure. More domestic life.
62. 933. (The Silent Creek) Talk about connecting with your place! I found the indigenous name of the creek that empties into the Lake about 1,000 feet from our house and made a poem about it.
63. 934. (Mind Falls) This time William Carlos Williams is the jumping off point, to go with more poems inspired in part by hiking.
64. 935. (Metaphorical August) More WCW and more “still life” poems during the pandemic.
65. 936. (How To Snoquera) A hiking/how to/list poem.
66. 937. (1 Angle on August) Poem written after a hike to High Rock Lookout.
67. 938. (High Rock Rootball) Another High Rock Lookout poem.
68. 939. (West of Paradise) Another High Rock Lookout poem.
69. 940. (Shadow of Tahoma) One more High Rock Lookout poem with yet another shot I took from the hike, this one the payoff photo.
70. 941. (Honorary Ancestor) Over the past few years tunes from my memorial playlist (Not Technically Blues) and the playlist itself has made it into postcard poems. Here’s another.
71. 942. (Bearded Lady) My Mom making COVID masks. This foto a keeper and a callback to my radio days. Long story.
72. 943. (Devotional Rabbits) had the feel of a haibun with McClure’s work providing the bun part. (The haiku is the hai part of haibun) but was not really a haibun. Still, the notion that one could pack more poetry into the poem came from a postcarder. Mary Beth Frezon, I think.
72. 944. (Postcard O’Clock) An epic postcard using cardboard from a pizza crust made to look like a clock. (We have been cooking a LOT of pizza and the cornmeal crust is so easy to work with and so tasty!) This one was not written by hand, one of my few postcard poems composed on the Mac, but the epic nature of it makes up for that lapse in postcard protocol. (pdf) (image)
73. 945. (Heart of Light) Acupuncture and one last High Rock Lookout photo & poem.
74. 946. (Empire’s S.O.S.) A neighbor’s upside down flag, suggesting crisis, along with many 2020 postcard themes was at the core of this postcard poem.
75. 947. (Mind Sharpener) More from the condo by the lake with a reference to a line attributed to Nanao Sakaki by John Brandi.
76. 948. (Forget the Self) Lots of Jason Wirth on both sides of this card.
77. 949. (Ear & Now) Nice to be getting haircuts again and writing about the experience.
78. 950. (Last Grasp) More Buddhism. More diet (yes, another halibut reference and the season is STILL not over at this writing) and another poem that unveils my evil plan to expand the laziest month of the year so we can use it to write despised poems to each other and watch the empire implode. (Now even the afterword is getting political!)
79. 951. (Ripe August) More Jason. More Wanda and a photo of the bell at Kubota Garden.
80. 952. (What Wanda Wanted) More Wanda and on the back of a frozen waffle box no less to respond in kind to Tim Mateer. (Was what Wanda wanted waffles?)
81. 953. (Worm Mom) The Rabbit Queen morphs into the Worm Mom. It’s about composting, mostly.
82. 954. (Worm Food) Another worm poem which included the previous worm poem and was to be fed to the worms.
83. 955. (No Treble) A new John Scofield features on bass, you guessed it, Steve Swallow (he’s EVERYWHERE, he’s EVERYWHERE!)
84. 956. (Worm Works) A worm poem and nursery rhyme ON THE SAME CARD! (Should have saved this for Walter Lowe.)
85. 957. (Wax Works) More McClure in this response to a beautiful encaustic card from my Subud Brother Lawrence Pevec.
86. 958. (No Laetrile) The most beautiful apricot card I have ever created, another response poem to another friend.
87. 859. (French Touch) Music returns and politics in the same poem. How does THAT happen?
88. 960. (Staircase Erratics) A combination of a family camping trip and thoughts of Subud.
89. 961. (Patience of Cedar) The power of a NW tribal totem, the cedar tree with an allusion to a hat that has a POPO story behind it.
90. 962. (Sing Shuksan) Bioregionalism, Gary Snyder and another day trip, this one to the North Cascades.
91. 963. (Cascadia Milagro) Several elements in this one. 1) It was inspired by a poem POPO-Ukiah poet Theresa Whitehill wrote called California Milagro and gave me the idea that POSTCARDS could be flat, cardboard Milagros. 2) It had haibun-like elements. First of all it was a travel poem. Second, it has poetry on the front of the card and then a shorter poem that references the longer piece. 3) Ultimately it is another political poem and another Buddhist poem.
92. 964. (Postcard Milagro) Another milagro, more on the dodge that discourse is and another using the image to get more text into the piece.
93. 965. (Human Milagro) Another milagro. Another travel poem with original photo. (Northern Skagit County.)
94. 966. (Another Postcard Milagro) Back home, with the nature out our picture window and our altar, not far from the desk where the magic is supposed to happen.
95. 967. (War on Blake) Nature here again at home mixes with more police brutality and Jacob Blake becomes a symbol of the war against the imagination, as he shares a surname with a famous poet.
96. 968. (More War on Blake) The Blake trope continues, which is – of course – politics, as is the culture war being stoked by forces of evil.
97. 969. (Greasin’) Back to music, original photos and the Village Vanguard. We watched both nights of David Murray and Lafayette Gilchrist.
98. 970. (Center of Attention) As my last list worked out, I felt it fitting to end with a poem to be mailed to Kenosha, Wisconsin, not far from where I was born and raised, the town where Jacob Blake was paralyzed by police in the COVID summer. One which we will all remember for various reasons. These things can happen anywhere in the U.S. and I think POPO does a little good in this chaotic and crucial time in human history. Thanks for reading and for your interest in the creative life which will save us I believe.