August Postcard Poetry Fest

In 2007 I participated in the first August Postcard Poetry Fest, organized by Lana Hechtman Ayers and Paul E. Nelson. What follows are all the poems I sent to participants, the recipient’s names and locations (as of 2007), plus other occasional notes. In some cases I sent two poems. I received poetry postcards from 26 of the 30 other people on the same list as me (including two poems from one poet), and still have them in a box—the postcards, that is, not the poets. I imagine the four missing postcards are stuck behind a sorting machine in Toledo or Umatilla, to be discovered some distant day by a postal archaeologist. Here, though, you can read the poems I sent (just 30 instead of 31, since I myself was one of the 31 poets for the month of August). Some of them have been published, as indicated. I’m unlikely to publish any of the rest of these poems, so I’m sharing them here. The poems include mostly haiku and tanka, but also some longer poems that still fit on a postcard, plus a few anagrams. In some cases, as I recall, the poems were inspired by the postcard image, but I have no record of any of the postcards themselves. Gone with the postal wind!
        For me, this exercise is a spur to creativity and connection. Its goal is not to produce fine poems, but to trust spontaneity in response to a postcard, one’s own sense of place, or the person receiving the poem. Many poems are acts of play, and perhaps nothing more. As such, the August Postcard Poetry Fest honours process over product, and it’s a pleasure to know that the recipients mentioned below each received a postcard I sent, and spent a moment reading what I wrote. I too enjoyed reading what I received, not just for the value of the poetry but for the value of personal interaction (often with strangers) and as a shared celebration of poetic expression.
        In 2017, to mark the fest’s tenth anniversary, Ina Roy-Faderman, Paul E. Nelson, and J. I. Kleinberg published 56 Days of August (available on Amazon), collecting poems from the 2016 postcard fest. The August Postcard Poetry Fest continues to be held every year. Visit the website for more details, or visit the Facebook page (in fact, it was an invitation to join this page in 2007 that prompted me to join Facebook in the first place). Perhaps you might participate in the August Postcard Poetry Fest one year yourself.


the eye of my webcam
keeps staring at me

        Sent to Lana Hechtman Ayers, Kirkland, Washington


rain falls
at their 60th high school reunion—
old friends apologize
for forgetting
each other’s birthdays

        Sent to Kim Bridgford, Wallingford, Connecticut


drifting, drifting
over the center line,
the tennis ball truck

        Sent to Holly Anderson, Jackson Heights, New York
        I confess that this poem mystifies me today, but might make more sense if I could remember the image on the front of the postcard


breaking the tension
beside the water-strider,
your acorn cap

        Sent to Janet McCann, College Station, Texas


finding them by touch
under the paisley couch . . .
newborn kittens

        Sent to Pit Pinegar, Plainville, Connecticut


I take the knife in my hand,
wish I could undo
the breaking of the licked seal
on that letter I wish
you’d never written,
wish I could mail it back,
return to sender,
let you keep the dark ink
on those once-wet pages,
let you think I didn’t care,
didn’t know how
to use this knife.

        Sent to Brendan McBreen, Auburn, Washington


Yes, that’s me,
with the yellow eyes,
in the corner,
staring at you
reading this postcard.

        Sent to Robin Cherney, Redmond, Washington
        I found it hard to resist being self-referential regarding all the postcards I sent


red dragonflies
on the Bible

        Sent to Raul Sanchez, Seattle, Washington


why did she mail it,
this French postcard
from the past,
from a time when we
were not yet lovers

        Sent to Brent Allard, Manchester, New Hampshire

        This poem was published in Skylark 3:2, Winter 2015 (England)


for your eyes only,
she says with a shy nod—
I think about this
then raise a hand to caress
her remaining breast

        Sent to Lois P. Jones, Glendale, California

        This poem was published in Gusts #26, Fall/Winter 2017 (Canada); the original said “surreptitious” instead of “shy”


faint cirrus clouds—
a shiny penny
still on the train tracks


on the just
and unjust
the sun shines
just so

        Sent to Peggy Miller, The Villages, Florida
        Two poems sent


blowing leaves—
for once I let them go
into the neighbour’s yard

        Sent to Iris Dunkle, Washington, D.C.


collapsed freeway—
genders and crosses
painted onto concrete

        Sent to Jessea Perry, Oakland, California
        Because the recipient lived in Oakland, I thought about the Cypress freeway structure that collapsed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, killing 42 people—it was sobering for me to visit the collapsed freeway shortly after surviving the earthquake myself
      +       +


         what’s left
                            of our sailboat’s
         in the freighter’s

        Sent to
Marit Saltrones, Bainbridge Island, Washington
        This poem was published in
American Tanka #25, June 2015


lord of car
floor card
coral ford
rod or calf
old for car


my bumbershoot is made of rice
rice is made of pythons
pythons are made of trivia
trivia is made of pulleys
pulleys are made of marmalade
marmalade is made

        Sent to
Carol Dorf, Berkeley, California
        Two poems sent; each line of the first poem is an anagram of the recipient’s name


trial by trail
doom by mood
die by dei

        Sent to Jennifer Flescher, Arlington, Massachusetts

        A variation on anagrams here



        Sent to Paul E. Nelson, Auburn, Washington




        Sent to David-Baptiste Chirot, Milwaukee, Wisconsin


my muse returned
from vacation today,
leaving me
dormant seeds—
I water them with this ink

        Sent to John Davis, Bainbridge Island, Washington


no thing in nothing
nothing in no thing
hinting night noon
ninth hinting goon
toning, thinning, oh
hinting, nothing on

        Sent to Rochelle Nameroff, El Cerrito, California



auk piñata chi

aha, I pick a nut!
ha, a pain! I tuck . . .
I huck paint—aa!

a nick-it-up aha
I, a kaput chain
Captain Haiku

        Sent to Frances LeMoine, Nashua, New Hampshire
        Anagrams of my own nickname, Captain Haiku
       +       +


rusted spurs
hang from a rotting rafter
foreclosed farm

        Sent to Tara Betts, Pearl River, New York


reading it first at the mailbox—
the colourful postcard
with a foreign stamp

        Sent to Valerie Fetherston, Victoria, British Columbia
        This was the first of two names on my list that required more than a domestic U.S. postcard stamp, since I was mailing it to Canada, which inspired the poem—either that or receiving a postcard from Canada


Difficult News

a stamp licked
for the poetry postcard—
all the news that fits,
yet people die every day
for lack of what’s there

        Sent to Jenifer Lawrence, Poulsbo, Washington


folding laundry—
a wad of what’s left
of her love note

        Sent to A. K. Allin, Seattle, Washington


Tanabata festival—
forbidden lovers meet
at the Japanese garden

        Sent to Julene Tripp Weaver, Seattle, Washington


Teck Cominco Anagrams

Mike, concoct!
Neck to comic,
met cock icon—
mock conceit!

        Sent to
Linda Lee Crosfield, Castlegar, British Columbia
        In the summer of 1984 I had tour of the Cominco mining facility in Castlegar, the home of this poem’s recipient, which inspired these anagrams


baseball record book—
a black boy asks his grandfather
why his name has an asterisk

        Sent to Ruby Kane and Ami Eaton, Seattle, Washington


the roar
of motorcycles
down the nearby freeway . . .
      I ponder my grass
in need of a mow

        Sent to Mathew Timmons, Los Angeles, California


Explaining Everything

If the universe
is infinite in all directions,
then the center could here,
even in the middle of me,
or anywhere.

My teenager thinks he
is the center of the universe,
and maybe, just maybe,
he’s right.

        Sent to John and Roberta Olson, Seattle, Washington
        When I wrote this poem, my son was just four years old, so not yet a teenager