Tuesday, July 20, 2010

First poem and tips; e-group?

I've got my first poemcard ready to mail. I want to scan it so I can keep a copy. (I already have an electronic copy of the poem.)

My poem is 14 lines long, including the title, with no stanza breaks--and I barely crammed it onto the postcard. (I'd say that this postcard has an average, or slightly smaller, space for the message.) And I have teeny-weeny copy editor's handwriting. So I encourage you to plan your space carefully.

In the future, I might write "site-specific poems"--that is, poems that are designed to fit that little block on the postcards.

On another topic: Someone suggested that we have a discussion group, maybe on Yahoo, for our poems and related topics. What do you all think? Please leave your comments on this message (or e-mail them to me if for some reason you can't add them here). I wouldn't be administering such a group, but I think I have a volunteer.

Happy posting!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mailing list tomorrow, I hope

I got thrown slightly off track today, and I'm still waiting for definitive info from a couple of possible contributors, but I hope to have the mailing list out to everyone tomorrow.

I'm eager to get going, and I hope you are as well.

If you have any suggestions or questions about this project as we go along, please let me know. This is totally new for me, so I'm kind of making it up as I go along.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Some questions and answers

Here are answers to some questions I've received (or anticipated receiving) concerning the poemcard project. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

And it's not too late to sign up! E-mail me at pam@winters.cc with "Poemcard project" in the subject line.

Q. Am I writing about what’s on the postcard?

A. That's totally up to you. I like the idea that the postcard can be there as a creative prompt if I need one, but I don’t plan to necessarily write ekphrastic poems.

Q. Am I writing a poem to the recipient?

A. That’s not the intention. A lot of us know each other, so it might be tricky to avoid writing a poem with that week’s specific audience in mind. It’s up to you. I plan to write what I’m moved to write and not get hung up on whether it’s being mailed to my husband or to some stranger.

Q. Is this project appropriate for my 10-year-old?

A. Depends on your 10-year-old. I’m not listing demographic info on the address list, and I can’t guarantee what anyone will be moved to write. (FYI, at the moment, our youngest participant is 17.) If you’re OK with your 10-year-old reading about whatever some lunatic scribbler might scribble, have at it.

This is a good place to mention that you might be offended by the content of a card...say, it bashes your favorite politician or takes a position on abortion with which you disagree. As I see it, we’re entering into a sort of informal contract here, in which writers should agree to be as polite as possible within the context of poetry (a not necessarily “polite” medium) and readers should agree to tolerate opinions not their own.

That said, please don’t send anything porny through the mails. We don’t want the law on our ass.

Q. Can I be anonymous?

A. Certainly, you can opt to not sign the cards when you send them, but since everyone will have the address list, it’s likely that the recipient will be able to figure out who you are.

If you want to use a pseudonym throughout the project, have at it, as long as your postal carrier will deliver items to your address under whatever name you choose. Just let me know your nom de carte as soon as possible so I can use it when I send out the list of addresses.

Q. Should I expect feedback on my poem?

A. This isn’t a workshop or submission to a journal. You’re putting something out there to, as my husband aptly put it, “an audience of one,” and you might never hear anything about it. Some people really dig that idea.

If you want to include on the card something like “Comments? Please write to im.a.poet[at]xanadu.org,” you might open a dialogue. It’s by no means obligatory to ask for or receive feedback.

Q. What if I miss a week?

A. Well, things happen. Know that if you get behind, you’ll be disrupting the orbit of these poems; someone’s gonna get two poems in the same week, someone’s gonna feel left out...whatever. I urge you to do your best to keep up.

I’m glad I didn’t stick with the poem-a-day idea, because it *is* hard. I’ve done several stints of writing a daily poem, and I haven’t always succeeded.
If you’re gonna come up with some wiseguy idea like “I’ll write four poems on the first day of the project and get the whole month out of the way,” at least don’t mail all of them at once! Part of the joy of this process is that of receiving tangible mail that demands nothing of you save a modicum of literacy.

Q. What if I think I’m being skipped?

A. Let me know, and I’ll look into it. The vagaries of the U.S. mail might well shift delivery times as much as the poets’ inspiration will.

I really can’t offer any guarantees that this thing will work. I just thought it would be fun to try.

Q. What if I have to drop out of the project?

A. Please let me know as soon as you can. I’ll rearrange the list and send out the revisions to avoid anyone’s being skipped.

Q. What’s the postage rate for postcards?

A. Within the United States, it’s 28 cents, for the time being. Could be a good way to use up odd stamps you have around the house.

By the way, if you're going to send something of an odd size, please check postal regulations. I know that some old and/or foreign postcards are too small for the post office to handle.

Q. What’s the Kooser Parish News? Does any of this have to do with Ted Kooser?

A. I’m sure that Ted Kooser doesn’t know me from Adam. I’m an admirer of his work, though, and I’m moved by the story of how, when he had cancer, he wrote a daily poem on a postcard and sent it to a friend, writer Jim Harrison. These poems were later collected in the book Winter Morning Walks.

As for “Parish News”: it’s the Anglophile in me, thinking of an image of an expected delivery, with unexpected contents, dropping reliably through one of those ubiquitous British mail slots.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

OK, let's revise this plan....

I've had very few takers for a poem-a-day project in the near future. So what if we back it off to a poem a week and start it on July 19?

Other details in the earlier post will stand. The idea is that if you are willing to write (that is, create) one poem per week on a postcard of your choice (deliberately or randomly chosen) and mail it to someone on a list you'll get from me, please let me know by July 12 so I can make the distribution list.

The spouse and I have dug around in our desks and whatnot (avoiding saying "in our drawers") and found hundreds of cards: vacation souvenirs we meant to mail, striking advertisements from bars, strange old things that fell out of books, etc. I'm very excited to get going.

So if you want to be in on this and you're willing to commit until, say, the end of September, please contact me at pam@winters.cc ASAP.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Postcard project

The concept: write a daily (more or less) poem on a postcard and mail it to someone. You will, in turn, receive a postcard poem ("poemcard"?) from someone.

You need not be a professional poet to do this. It doesn't require an MFA or publication credits. It requires only some postcards, postage, and your willingness to engage in creative play.

I’m indebted to Paul Nelson and Lana Ayers at the August Poetry Postcard Fest for this concept. As of this writing, I don't know whether they'll be doing their postal fest this coming August. I don’t mean in any way to steal their thunder. I just want to give more people (including myself) the opportunity to participate in this sort of project.

I'd like to start mailing on July 12, though I might have to wait a bit if I don't get enough participants. If you're interested, the instructions on contacting me are at the end of this post.

Here’s the process:

--Find yourself at least 20 unwritten-upon postcards. You might even want to make your own; if so, make sure you meet post office regulations concerning size, shape, etc.

--On the appropriate days--Monday through Friday of the experiment’s four weeks--write a poem on the card. That is, you’ll be creating a poem--not copying someone else’s or using one you wrote earlier. Maybe it’ll be inspired by what's on the card; maybe not. Recognize that this poem, which won’t likely have gone through many revisions, will not be a finished work. Deal with that recognition. You’ll probably want to make a copy for yourself. I might write (that is, create) the poem online and then copy it by hand onto the card. I see that the Nelson/Ayers project recommends the immediacy and spontaneity of actually writing the poem on the card. The card, as artifact, is important to this project, as far as I'm concerned.

--You’ll have been sent a list of participants. On the first day, you’ll mail the postcard that day to the person under you on the list. On the second day, you’ll mail the postcard to the person after that person...and so on, down the list. If you come to the bottom of the list, the next postcard goes to the first person on the list. It’s a big round robin of verbiage!

--If you have more than 20 cards, feel free to do a couple of bonus poemcards and send them to random people on the list. Don’t get ridiculous about doing so, however, or you’ll make us slackers feel bad.

--We’ll reevaluate the experiment before the end of the 20 days. Perhaps it’ll be a big ol’ failure. Perhaps some of us will need a break. Perhaps some new people will come around. If the experiment continues, I’ll put together a new list for each new poetry period.

If you’re interested, please e-mail the following information to me (don’t put it in the comments! they’re public!) at pam@winters.cc, under the subject line “Kooser Parish News”:

1. Name
2. Complete mailing address (where you want to receive postcards from strange poets)
3. E-mail address (this won't be part of the distributed participant list; it's just for my reference)
4. Whether or not you are willing to mail cards overseas, should we get some non-U.S. participants (and if we do, I'll have to figure out what to do about that)

The point here isn’t necessarily to create great literature, although it’s always cool when that happens. No, the point is to keep the creative juices flowing. I plan to keep all the postcards I receive in a scrapbook.

Again, the mailing period will likely start on July 12 and end on August 6, but I'll let you know when we're a bit farther along.

And regarding this site's name, see here.