Poetry Postcard Fest
SICA-USA is a sponsor of the Poetry Postcard Fest which I co-founded in 2007. That makes this year’s fest the 15th annual and several Subud members have participated. Registration is open at www.popo.submittable.com until July 18.
This year I collaborated on a peer-reviewed article with Margaret Lee about the fest’s debt to Black Mountain College, a visionary institution of higher education in the western hills of mid-20th century North Carolina. (More on that place here.) The essay is entitled Poetry Postcard Fest Black Mountain Style and appears in the Journal of Black Mountain College Studies.
The Poetry Postcard Fest works because its process is simple. Participants register online throughout the year, for a nominal fee. In July, each person receives a list of 32 registered poets. During the month of August, participants agree to send to another poet on the list an original poem on a postcard, delivered by regular mail. In 14 years, the festival has grown from 100 to 544 participants in 11 countries, 46 U.S. states, and 3 Canadian provinces. We hope to expand the fest to an even wider and more diverse international audience. The notion of spontaneous composition on postcards comes directly from a 1995 interview produced by SPLAB with Beat/Black Mountain poet, Michael McClure, when he discussed Charles Olson’s legendary essay, “Projective Verse.” Regarding the poems in his book Three Poems, McClure said:
They’re spontaneous, and they areas they were written, and each one is a kind of a spiritual challenge and part of the adventure of the consciousness that’s taking place there is I… do not allow myself to change it. And that doesn’t mean that it’s a grueling… task that I’ve laid upon myself but a very sweet possibility of taking a trip through experience that I’ve never taken before. Now, the poem does not really necessarily come from me. With Projective Verse, the inspiration for the poem can be outside of you, or it could be inside of you. It could be a perception or an act, or a memory, or a piece of consciousness. But it could also be—let’s say it was a vase of incredibly beautiful irises. Then I look at that vase of irises and/or touch it or I smell it. It’s not just looking at it. I’m aware. I have the perception in the real world of that vase of irises. It becomes part of me, of my physical being, and then it sort of like rebounds, following my breath line onto the page and is arranged on the page in terms of my breath line, and whatI’m really listening to as I write it, it’s not metrical foot like, light/ heavy, light/heavy, light/heavy, or any given count, but I’m listening to syllables as it happens. So you see, it’s less like I’m dragging something up out of myself than it is like I’m acting in the world, like the painters that I spoke of.
Yours in Subud Culture,
Paul E Nelson