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It has been eleven years since I was a presenter at Haiku North America, on the campus of Fort Worden in 2011. I spoke on the subject of American Sentences, those 17 syllable poems that I have been writing once a day since January 1, 2001. (I remember reading one “found” sentence at the gathering that upset one Haiku poet since I did not write it.) Despite that, the Seattle group Haiku Northwest is asking me back to their next meeting to talk about the Poetry Postcard Fest on Thursday, June 9, 2022. Yes, it is via Zoom. Details:

Time: Jun 9, 2022 06:45 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 849 4352 2005
Passcode: 254838

I have told the history of the fest so many times, I can do it in my sleep.

There are a lot of similarities between composing haiku and composing postcard poems. When I look at the fest guidelines from the early years, some of the priorities mirror the notion of composition as moment of revelation. Of course the space of a postcard is a limitation like the 17 syllables of traditional haiku, though the best haiku poets are not limited to the 5-7-5 form we were taught in 2nd grade. Some of the directions from the early years of the fest:

Do not recycle old poems for this. Do not compose a long poem in advance and cut it up into hunks for this. 

It is an experiment in composing in the moment and your poem has an audience of one. This is designed in part as a conversation…

Write about something that relates to your sense of “place” however you interpret that, something about how you relate to the postcard image, what you see out the window, what you’re reading, a dream you had that morning, or an image from it, etc. Like “real” postcards, get to something of the “here and now” when you write. Present tense is preferred… Do write original poems for the project. Taking old poems and using them is not what we have in mind. You may want to use epigraphs. One participant last year used his daily I Ching divination to inform his poems. As you begin getting poems on August 1 (ideally) incorporate a tone, an image, some content or ignore them if uninspired and start writing a poem a day…

Write at least 31 poems and send at least 31 cards.

…This is also an experiment in community consciousness. Try to respond to cards that you get with subject, image or any kind of link if possible. Often newsworthy events happen in August. How would our community respond? Letting a card that you receive linger for a while before you respond to the next person on your list is the preferred method. When you go to your mail box each day, put the bills aside, read the poems you get and think about them as you write to the next person on your list.

USPS Tlingit Stamp

Of course my biases regarding serial efforts guide how I approach the fest. While I don’t have a “subject” per se, I often have a poet from which I am writing. Often by using epigraphs. A subject often emerges, or several. One of the great joys of the fest is how it continues to provide challenges. Once you get a sense of how to compose spontaneously, which one is never really “done” with, creating one’s own cards is the next challenge. Even if you are not a museum-quality graphic artist like some regular fest participants, you can learn a few tricks from them. (One always learns something from the cards that arrive in the mail.) Some people use postage stamps to further assign meaning to the work of art. (Yes, you start to get into stamp collecting. Did you see those Tlingit Raven stamps?!?) Then of course there is the penmanship. Is it similar to calligraphy? I think so and I have work to do in this department. You even start to be a snob when it comes to pens.

If you are new to the postcard fest, hopefully there will be time for Q & A on Thursday and if you are a haiku poet, or want to be one, this is your chance to meet our community’s haiku folks who were kind enough to invite me to their gathering. Zoom has made the world smaller and we should give thanks for that and savor these opportunities.