You have your list of names and addresses. You’ve collected a stack of postcards and stamps. Now what?
Maybe you, like Lisa Choi, will simply “write whatever inspiration strikes me at that moment.” But if you feel a little nervous about setting pen to postcard, you’re not alone.
Let’s start with the hard part: write your poem on the card in one take — no editing.
Here’s what Paul Nelson says in the guidelines: “The idea is to practice spontaneity, to write directly on the card in one take. If it’s hard at the start of the Fest to do that, relax, because it gets better as the month goes on. No one can publish your poem without your permission and you are writing to one person.” Paul adds, “We can level with that person our most immediate and intimate thoughts, which is an amazing gift that can liberate both sender and receiver.”
Ina Roy-Faderman says, “I always thought not ‘practicing’ — that is, writing and rewriting and trying to make it perfect — was both hard and scary.” Linda Crosfield agrees: “It took me about three or four years of doing the exchange before I could actually do it the way Paul suggests, namely write directly onto the card. Doing that was a big leap of faith and has taught me to trust my initial impulse more. First thought/best thought.”
We asked some experienced postcarders for suggestions on getting started. Here are a few ideas:
- Kim Clark: I prefer to start with a theme (in case it turns into a chapbook).
- Ina: write a response to the last card you got.
- Paul: write a poem in response to issues in the news.
- Ina: write the next five postcards about the view out your kitchen window/a painting you detest/David Bowie’s passing/your favorite foods, etc.
- Judy: make a list of prompts and select one at random each day; here’s a link to posts tagged prompts on The Poetry Department blog (click on Previous entries at the bottom of each page to see more).
- Kristin Cleage: Mostly I go around noticing things — the weather, my yard, my neighbors — and then I write something short about it.
- Paul: start each poem with a quote from a poet whose work interests you (see Paul’s 2013 article How to Write a POstcard POem) [and be sure to credit the quote].
- Ina: write about the image on your postcard (if there is one).
- Kristin: Last year I wrote some American sentences so I had to do so many syllables per poem.
- Paul: here’s part of the original APPF instructions: “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.”
- Ina: write a poem to the mail carrier who will deliver the postcard.
- Judy: use the last line of yesterday’s poem as the first line of today’s poem.
As Kristin says, “I think you just have to jump in and find your way and relax.”
Have suggestions for poets facing the blank postcard? Please leave a Comment!