Sunday, September 23, 2007

Perennial Postcard List

Dear Poet,

Thanks for participating in this Perennial Postcard Poetry Fest. What follows are suggested guidelines.

The Mailing List

Whenever new folks ask to join we'll add them to the bottom of the list which you can access with the password you received on September 23. You should check the website above before mailing a card to see if there has been an address change or if new names have been added.

Right now, please check your address on this list and send a correction to Lana.Ayers at yahoo dot com immediately if anything is wrong.

Getting Started

Gather the most interesting postcards you can find. Although we don't want to censor anyone, do remember some of the folks you may be mailing to may have young children. Antique stores, thrift shops, ebay, bookstores, even local pharmacies all carry postcards.

Get some postcard stamps. Remember if you send larger than standard cards, the postage is higher. Also, there are folks from many different countries on the list, and the postage rate varies widely internationally. Go to the post office to check mailing rates before sending your cards. If mailing from the US , you can find postal rates at

Start Playing

Get started right away! We'd like to ask you try to send at least a postcard a week on average. If you want to send more, that's great too. We'd also like to suggest that you send to the person below you on the mailing list, and keep moving down the list. That way everyone on the list should receive a postcard in a week or so. If you start at the top, then the poor folks towards the bottom may be waiting a year or more to hear from anyone. So the person who is #42, would send a postcard the first week to #43, the second week to #44, and so on. If you get to the bottom of the list, then start over up at #1. It will be tricky as we add new names, but work it out as best you can. We want everyone to receive cards and feel involved in the project.

You may not get to everyone on the list in a year's time, but the important thing is you keep writing and sending postcard poems on a regular basis.

What to write? 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.

Don't dwell or worry over these little poems too much. After all, it should feel like play, as if you're writing long lost acquaintances to tell them something that excites or interests you. Imagine that you know each person you are writing to as you write. Write out of the moment you're in and write quickly once you do sit down to write.

Do write original poems for the project. Taking old poems and using them is not what we have in mind. Letting a card linger for a while before you respond to the next person on your list is cool.

Keep writing cards about once a week whether you receive any or not. The ways of mail are mysterious. You will receive cards. Focus on all those recipients on the list eager to hear from you, who will be excited to open their mail and find the images and words you've chosen just for them.

Continue Playing

Whenever you receive a postcard in the mail from someone else, use that card as inspiration to write to the next person on your list. Try to respond to that card's image, style, tone or content, or anything else. How you link is not important, just that there is some connection developing, however subtle, and write your next poem from there. Try to get your postcard poem out as soon as you can.

Some conscious and unconscious threads may develop among the cards you receive and those you send. You may want to snap a picture or make a copy of the card before you send it out and keep a record of the poem/card that prompted it.

General Flow

In an ideal world, you'd receive a card every week. But distance, individual writing practices, and the postal service throw a bit of chaos into the mix. What we hope will happen is that you mail and receive a unique array of postcards from the members on the list. There may be weeks you get more than one card, weeks you receive none. But certainly you'll have your own collection of unique, original card poems from authors all over the world. Remember to sign your card, so people will know who it was from.

For a glimpse of our August Postcard Poetry Fest and to see what others have done, checkout the blog: or check out the group Postcard Poetry Fest on (you need to join Facebook to see this site).


If for whatever reason, you aren't able to continue participating in the perennial postcard fest, notify us immediately to remove you from the list. Unlike August, when we sent out an email and a thread started running, we'll bcc any instructions to prevent any unwanted emails from going out. For that same reason we're not going to put emails on the on-line address list, as many people complained about their inboxes last August.

If you have any questions, feel free to email.


We're planning a Poetry Postcard Festival Convention next September in the Seattle area. If you'd like to help with planning, please get in touch with us. We see it happening on the weekend of September 12-14, 2008, and we're trying to line up a proper venue. We'll keep you posted on that.

Thanks again for participating in this postcard poetry adventure. Have fun and good writing.

Lana (Lana.Ayers at yahoo dot com) & Paul (pen at splab dot org)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Paul's Postcard Wrapup

August Poetry Postcard Fest

August, 2007, is finally over and I have mailed my last poetry postcard, though I am sill getting cards in the mail. Today I got Catherine Daly’s card and when I returned home last night from the Bay Area seven other cards were waiting. I found myself this past month looking forward to going home, opening the mailbox expecting cards and THEN greeting my cat. We all have priorities.

This project worked out better than I had expected. I have been involved in collaborative efforts before, but this one ran rather smoothly. Lionel Kearns rightly pointed out that the community created is a non-hierarchical one and that is consistent with what I understand the Organismic paradigm to be, so I see my role as participant more than anything else. The fest has many more facets of an Organismic world-view, and though I won’t be able to recognize every one, this note is a start.

I think a brief description of what I mean by Organismic is necessary, so let me get into that now, but only briefly. While most North Americans see the world as made up of independent, isolated things in competition with one another, an Organismic view sees reality as made up of occasions of experience interconnected with all other previous events, influencing future events. (The Hua Yen Buddhists said future events also impact the present, but that discussion’s for another time.) Father Matthew Fox once created a wonderful graph illustrating the difference between the Mechanistic world-view and the Organismic. Two examples are:

Things Are Determined vs. Chaos, Spontaneity, Freedom…
Universe as Machine vs. Universe as Mystery

So, the Organic poem is one that’s process-oriented, as explained below.


When discussing the notion of writing spontaneously with Sam Hamill, he often complains that to write spontaneously with any degree of skill usually takes years and years of writing, and he’s right. Michael McClure said he does not know of a more adventurous gesture than to write spontaneously and that resonates with me also. So it is no surprise that any collaborative project which I have a hand in shaping has that quality. The instructions Lana and I came up with for this affair clearly stated that poems were being composed on a postcard. For some whose handwriting is rotten, we prefer that they are typed and pasted on to a card, but we hoped people would not compose on paper, cook the poem a little, THEN write on the card. When I saw a scratching out of a word on a card I received, I was actually a little pleased. The Organic poem can be seen as a map of the mind at work in the moment.

I look back and remember one card with a word that did not send the intention I had envisioned when composing and I sent an email afterwards to the recipient clarifying. My own documentation reflects the preferred version. This was poem #8, to Rochelle Nameroff of El Cerrito, California where I said parched instead of quenched.

In my poem #88 to Lionel Kearns in Vancouver, B.C., I wrote How much longer will Slaughter prevail? when how much longer will Slaughter go on? is better, but I documented the card as it was sent. I always composed on cards, with one time (#9 to Todd Johnson) having handwriting that was not clear, so I ended up doing some unintentional repetition that drove home the line with potentially garbled handwriting:

Go forth and birth, yes
go forth & birth your
inner Magician while Rosa

Without the actual cards, a lot of this context is lost, such as the description already printed on the card. This makes the true experience the one of actually handling the card itself, not a digital echo. Some things cannot replace the joy of Meat Space and the postcard fest is one of them. This is the major part of the project’s appeal.


I guess I have been harping on this for at least a decade because I remember my daughter Rebecca being in a writer’s circle (Living Room) at the old SPLAB! on Division Street. She must have been five or six years old and someone, with kindness but no real expectations, asked Rebecca if she wrote. She said something like, Yes, but I don’t really have a writing discipline. Folks were shocked to hear a child put it in those terms, but she knew at an early age what kind of commitment is expected.

To write every day is not a facet of the Organismic paradigm alone, but the daily discipline is a critical part of the process. As I was on all three lists we had compiled, I was writing three daily, and because of that I think I have a wider range of success (and failure) for what happened than the average participant. Some real duds, but a lot of poems I still feel good about. I’ll check back in five years and see what sticks.

What we said in the instructions was to start with some sense of place with the first few cards and then as cards start coming in, to respond with some kind of link to the next person on the list. The non-linear nature of this setup is certainly post-modern, as far as Literary considerations go, but it is also Organismic. It is chaotic only in the sense of a pattern not immediately apparent and how patterns develop is quite mysterious, so fitting in with what Father Fox points out above on the difference between Mechanistic and Organismic.


So some of the themes that emerged for me were:

Blood Moon
Lightning Moon
The Destruction (or uselessness) of Time
Chief Joseph
Panther (due to the current postcard stamp)
Elvira Arellano (The deported Mexican Immigrants-Rights activist)
Frida Kahlo

and of course my Love/Hate relationship with Slaughter, the old name of the town in which I live and the ongoing project of documenting the tension between the two paradigms discussed here.

Silence and Frida Kahlo are the two themes I did not start, but responded to and I am sure I’ll recognize other themes as I spend more time reading the cards. How themes develop, or become fields of energy, is another aspect of the Organismic. Having been involved in other group poetry collaborations, I was quite pleased that the general field of energy swirled out by postcarders was one of gratitude and cooperation.

Most cards have a picture on the front, which means that the postcard poem can be an ekphrastic poem. They can pick up a thread from a previous poem/card’s image, content, rhythm, tone, or a number of other impulses. The range of potential sources is quite wide and that adds to the likelihood of success for the project and each individual’s experience. Contrast this with similar projects where the poem must come up out of nothing and compare the results.


Who can let August go by without a trip or two? The road trip is one of my favorite ways to go now that I have a dependable car, and go I did. I wrote cards from

• Castlegar, BC at postcarder Linda Crosfield’s house,
• the grave of Chief Joseph in Nespelem, WA (where a WiFi signal is present),
• the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle and
• a Summer of Love 40th Anniversary road trip to San Francisco. I wrote the last two cards in Ft. Bragg and Castro Valley, California, respectively.

I felt sorrow while composing those last two cards. August was ending, and with it what most people believe to be summer, although Lana and I know better, as we have birthdays around the Autumnal Equinox. This project allows creativity to be the primary concern in August, a rare luxury, but more importantly, to act as Creator. Maybe we are not creating races of beings and planets, but we are creating a Self, as postcarder Lionel Kearns points out when he says in his poem Manitoulin Canada Day 1975, “Poetry is the articulate struggle to be, in this world, yourself, in spite of everything. It is the struggle of life against death, of the hero against overwhelming odds and it is everyone’s struggle.” If this effort is not undertaken, what fills the void in our consume-at-all-costs-pop culture are the messages of advertisers. Our consciousness becomes essentially that.


There are so many that it would take weeks to write appropriately about all the highlights. Poems from Christopher Luna and Greg Watson made me laugh out loud and Christopher’s collage card was quite remarkable. Kelli Russell Agodon had a line that reminded me of WCW’s Danse Russe. She said, “That night the poem//saw you in the kitchen doing the watusi…” Pit Pinegar reminding me, “What you see/is always more than/what you think you see.” The Endangered Sounds poem of Fran LeMoine. R.D. Shadowbyrd on The Desperate Sport of Poets.

I loved the card Lionel Kearns sent, The Rose of the World, a re-production of a Charles Olson manuscript from the Special Collections Library at Simon Fraser University, and the card Bruce Greeley sent out of Dali figures, was likely the coolest card of the 80 I received (so far). I sent out 92 during the August Poetry Postcard Fest. Lana stared the Frida theme, (or continued a theme I started with a poem written after seeing an exhibit of photographs at the Tacoma Art Museum), with A Brief History of Pain & Fame in which she wrote, “ Frida, you’ve procreated/ with paint,/ masterpieced Diego/ into the patron saint/ of footnote.” I don’t remember a line more powerful than that in all the cards.

This project, started more or less as a lark, has turned into an event beyond what the wilds of my imagination could conjure and was quite humbling for a person who seeks to build new connections, enhance existing ones, foster creativity and exist in a vibrant community of artists. September 6-11, 2007, 11:511AM, Slaughter,WA.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

John Olson's Postcard Thoughts

Seattle's John Olson shares his thoughts about the August Poetry Postcard Fest:

The August postcard celebration was quite amusing. Postcards are innately fun. Their pictures are scenic, exotic, and gleeful, sometimes arty, sometimes cheesy, but always joyful. The saddest card we received was, perhaps, the image of a picnic bench on a blank horizon of snow under a gray sky. But even that, with its mood of barrenness, is tinged with euphoria. Postcards are sent to us by people on vacation. People traveling. The postcards are generally representative of the country they are traveling in.

The messages are brief, often breezy, encapsulations of a journey. But in these experiments, the landscapes were mental. The poetry, constrained by the diminutive size of the postcards, were encapsulations of thought and speculation. Most corresponded to the image on the front. Janet McCann, for instance, sent us a postcard touting Las Vegas, five separate images featuring the fun and frolic that is Las Vegas, and her poem, titled "The Crone at the Casino," is a graphic description of an old woman gambling in a casino, who momentarily observes the other elderly people around her, "hunched over machines, twisting their hands, some singing or moaning to themselves."

Raul Sanchez responded to the card I sent him of a meditating Buddhist monk in a saffron robe with a postcard featuring a gate to the Taj Mahal and the inscription "Passion for India, Your Door to the Indian Experience." On the back was a poem about spiritual practice, "the importance of early training, a safety net against nihilism and the absurdity of modern life."

Paul Nelson sent us two dancing bears, each bear rendered in the geometric style of the Northwest Coast Salish Indians. The bears are full of gaiety and life. Bright colors and red tongues hanging out. Paul's poem, penned in the casual manner of someone on the road, perhaps sitting at a table on an outdoor patio, describes the dynamism of August as an incorporation in pink flesh, "a rose of meat" "eating up more sun" and "abetting the utter destruction of time."

Another postcard among the batch we've saved in the wicker tray by the kitchen telephone, on which a molar sparkling with happiness views itself with a handheld mirror (yes, this molar has hands), is from our dentist reminding us of our dental appointment.... wait a minute. How'd that get in there? Our most mysterious card was from Mathew Timmons. The image was of smudged blurry charcoal shapes and the edge of the card was burned. His poem, a meditation on "common spaces/ explored in the usual manner" ends "by shifting the air with mere/ presence/ shaping sand in consonance."

Friday, September 7, 2007

Fest Wrap-up & Call for On-Going Participants

Dear Poet,

Thank you for your participation in this August Postcard Poetry Fest. Your inspired participation made this event the amazing success it was.

Share Your Experience

Now that the last cards have come and gone, (we hope), we'd like to invite you to share your thoughts about this process. If you'd like to write a paragraph or two about the experience, on writing or receiving the cards, talk about your favorite cards, what you noticed about the flow form poem to poem, whatever moved you, that'd be quite welcome as we seek to expand. Please send your piece to Paul at splabman at or post it on here or on facebook (Facebook requires registration and can be quite a habit). If you post your thoughts about the August Postcard Poetry Fest to your own blog or website, please send Paul the links and let us know if we can re-post your thoughts elsewhere.

Celebrate the Experience

For those who are able to come to Seattle on September 22nd, we will have a celebration event at Café Vega, 7pm at 1918 E. Yesler Way . This event will be documented by Andre, the proprietor. If you aren't in the area, gather some friends and have a celebration of your own.

Continue the Experience

So many of us were so taken with the process of writing the cards daily, that we want to continue this organic connection of words on a regular basis, but at a more casual and meditative pace until next August. So we are now putting together a Perennial Poetry Postcard List. The idea here is simple, try to write a postcard poem at least once a week, and send it to the next person on your list. Try to write a postcard poem at least once a week regardless of whether you receive one or not in order to keep the connections flowing. Remember you have a ready-made and excited audience awaiting your poems in the mailbox. When you receive cards, do respond to them with cards of your own as well. Move through the list of names at your own pace and keep going until we reach August 2008.

We will keep the list open and add names whenever someone expresses interest, so you will need to add new people occasionally. Please share your experience with this process with friends and invite them to join us for the perennial list. We hope to make the list as long and broad as we possibly can. Then in August, 2008, we'll go back full-throttle into the daily August PostCard Poetry Fest.

Please email Lana lana.ayers at yahoo dot com or Paul splabman at yahoo dot com to sign up for the perennial list. We'd appreciate it if you could reply by 9/22 so we can roll out the new list and get those cards started again. And don't forget to forward this info to all your friends and have them join us too.

Future Experiences

We are planning a weekend of community joining and workshops for September, 2008, on Orcas Island . We hope you can join us and would welcome your effort to help plan/shape the event.

Thanks again for your time, your dedication, your postcard poems that created this instant and vibrant community of words.

All best,
Lana Ayers & Paul Nelson