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  • Writer's pictureErika Nichols-Frazer

August POetry POstcard Fest!

The gorgeous postcards I've gotten this month

For all the gripes I have about Facebook's business practices and privacy issues, it occasionally does something useful, like alert me to this cool thing called the August POetry POstcard Fest (or as they call it, "PoPo." I'm not going to call it that.). More specifically, I saw a post about this initiative in Rattle Magazine, which I follow. (Follow all the lit mags. My Twitter feed is like, 50% lit mags, 40% politics, and 10% puppies.) I read the interview with "fest" creator/poet Paul E. Nelson, who works with Seattle Poetics Lab and runs this "exercise in spontaneous composition and community building," and it sounded pretty cool. Here's how it works: For a $10 donation to the Seattle Poetics Lab (their largest fundraiser), you get a list of 31 other writers from around the country and their mailing addresses. Get or make 31 postcards, write spontaneous, first-draft poems on each of them and send them on their way! You should get 31 postcard poems back, kind of like those old chain mail things, but, you know, better and with poetry. The idea is you send one for each day in August, but I got excited and just did mine in a few swoops when I got inspired. They've been coming in dribs and drabs all month and have made me actually look forward to checking the mail. Remember getting mail? Turns out it's still the best, even from strangers.

I read poetry just about every day (thanks, Poem-a-Day!) and I love discovering new voices. These postcards have been a fun way to connect with other poets and push myself to create. Working on a short story collection and memoir, I haven't written much poetry in a while. This practice helped me get back into it and gave me the freedom to write raw, fresh stuff without editing. As the instructions say, "The idea is to practice spontaneity, that is write directly on the card in one take." Everyone else's poems will be just as unpolished, so it's fine. There's none of the pressure of a workshop, just a reader at the other end.

A lot of my poems this month were about yet-again horrific shootings and the latest immigration developments, as well as whatever else crossed my mind.

One of my spontaneous poems, written on a wooden postcard

Admittedly, I have a habit of taking on random projects at the same time as deadlines or important things coming up (see: sewing a stuffed animal out of old socks and t-shirts during college's "conference" a.k.a finals week), but in this case, these unedited bursts of creativity actually spurred more creativity and productiveness. Write a quick poem about the first thing I think of, send it off to a stranger, sit down ready to write.

Writing can be a lonely practice and it's important to have readers you trust. But there's also something nice about knowing someone you will never meet is reading your work, and you'll never know what it meant to them. For all the time we spend crafting our words, it feels good to kow someone is excitedly checking their mail, waiting to read what you have to say.

So far, I've gotten 23 poems back (which may be due in part to me initially putting down my work zip code instead of my home zip. Who knows what beautiful poems are lost somewhere out there in Post Office-land?) and it's made me look forward to checking the mail. So if you ever want to mail me poetry (or anything! Like I said, I love getting real, personal mail!), hit me up. In the meantime, Happy PoPo!

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