Cascadia Poetics Lab 2023 Poetry Postcard Fest by Fayra Teeters

Sep 29, 2023 | 1 comment

Headed up by Paul Nelson, former SICA-USA Chair, Cascadia Poetics Lab conducted its 17th Annual Poetry Postcard Fest from July 4th through August 31st. This project was funded in part by a grant from SICA-USA. Participants began enrolling in the project the year before, and this year the numbers of eager participants reached 518. How well did it roll out? To quote from the press release:

“Cascadia Poetics Lab invites anyone interested in writing and receiving personal, original poetry to participate by writing daily poems on postcards and sharing them with other writers around the globe. Participants can write poems wherever and whenever inspiration strikes!

The Fest is a self-guided 56-day workshop that involves receiving a mailing list of other poets to whom each poet sends 31 first draft poems on postcards, which can be purchased or hand-made. Participants are encouraged to be creative with themes and images, to place poetry in the forefront of their lives by perceiving every moment as possible material for poetry. The festival is an exercise in both community and discipline – to dedicate oneself to writing 31 poems in 56 days and mailing the postcards to other poets located around the world.

One of the goals of writing poetry is sharing what your world looks like, relating a different way of seeing. The goal of reading poetry is to open your eyes to different, unique, and yet utterly comprehensible ways of being human, of sharing one’s own humanity and seeing the humanity of others! We are going on this journey together, a journey to strengthen our empathy, appreciation, and curiosity about others. Postcard by postcard, we’re creating a web of peace, interest and joy.”

This year the world-wide span of poets included Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States (44 states, all-told). Cascadia Poetics Lab recruited lawyers, retirees, graphic artists, 8-year-olds, theater professionals, doctors, nurses, and end of life doulas. They advertised in the Community of Literary Presses, newsletters, plus their website blog with 1200 subscribers. They made inroads to the international peace community by attending the International Peace Research Association Convention in Trinidad.

Paul Nelson founded Cascadia Poetics Lab in 1993, with the mission of empowering people to practice poetry to deepen connections to place, self, and the present moment. “We believe that poetry is the nexus at which self-knowledge, bioregionalism and expansive creativity converge. Cascadia Poetics Lab is a vibrant community offering workshops, festivals, and opportunities for global connection. Composing spontaneously is a transformative experience – the similarities to the Latihan are rather profound. How do we let language lead as a means of transcending ego? This is the basis for the Poetry Postcard Fest.” Amazing fun-fact: Michael McClure and Allen Ginsberg were both opened in Subud!

Quotes from satisfied poets:

Jan McEwan of Los Gatos: “I enjoyed my first PPF! I put a lot into creating both poems and cards; it was challenging and fun. I’m up to the rafters in paper, postcards, ephemera, vintage postage stamps, cereal boxes, and pens – that I’m sad to tidy up ‘til next year. I share the same disappointing visits to my mailbox, but felt all the more elation when there was a postcard there.”

Jennifer Nightingale of Astoria: “It’s like a mid-summer advent calendar. Everyday holds surprises when I’m hopeful that there is a postcard from somewhere with an inspiring verse from the creative minds of kindred spirits. So many creative and quirky efforts! The most astonishing was receiving a vintage postcard from someone in Alabama featuring a photo of the Astoria Column, which is at the top of my own hill! I had no idea how joyful it would be to exchange these little poems.”


1 Comment

  1. I’ve been making mail art since I read about the Fluxus movement in art school in the late sixties. I’m attracted to the surreal, the mysterious and the weird in art. The annual Poetry Postcard Festival provides another exploratory path to the unconscious and the complex world of the psyche. And its great fun getting those cards each day. Long live the USPS!

    Paul and his community of poets in the Pacific Northwest and across the country have done an extraordinary thing in establishing and managing the Poetry Postcard Festival for seventeen seasons. And like Poems for Peace, SICA-USA has played a part.

    2023 was my fourth year of participation. Today, October 1st, we’re having a Zoom conference where poets/ artists read and show one card from the batch of thirty-one they sent usually beginning in July and ending in August. I got a straggler yesterday!

    The effect of writing a spontaneous bit each day is a unique exercise in surrender and releasing the grip of the inner critic. Since I do my writing in the early morning, I often record a dream image or sequence or a thought that may emerge from a well of experience. The written word gets juxtaposed with the unique image I’ve created for my recipient, one of thirty-one on my list. Often not related in any obvious way, the image may create a conundrum. The activity is a one-pass process that, sans editing or over-thinking, may reveal profound meaning or even guidance. Sometimes an inner vision or understanding emerges that, in the moment, isn’t recognizable as significant, but reveals something meaningful upon return readings.


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