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 email@example.com 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.