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."

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