Try This: Postcard Poems

A few of the postcard poems I received during the 2013 Postcard Poetry Fest.
Feeling a bit stuck? Write a postcard poem!

In August I participated in the annual Postcard Poetry Fest, an organized commitment to write and mail a poem on a postcard every day for a month. Yes, that's every single day, for 31 days.

Writing on a postcard, I quickly learned, leaves little room to ramble. Every word counts and writing in the short form sharpens your skills — and fast.

As an added challenge, organizers urged poets to write spontaneous poems. This, they emphasized, was not the time to peacock your best work but instead an opportunity to write fresh and with energy. 

For the most part my poems were real clunkers — as first drafts tend to be — and I was embarrassed to share my work with others. But once I gave myself permission to stumble, I began to let loose and the process became one of exploration and discovery. 

"That most of the poems I received were awful was beside the point," explains organizer Paul Nelson. "That most people were trying, were making themselves vulnerable and were learning little by little how to be in the moment and let the language itself have its say, was a victory."

I agree. And for me, the best part wasn't the daily writing practice, or even choosing postcards to share (though that was fun). The best part was receiving postcards and poems. Cards arrived from Arkansas, California, New York, Maine, Michigan, Washington, Oregon, Canada, and more. Nearly every day a new voice spoke to me —and each was unique, fresh, and willing.

As the stack of postcards grew, I felt a thin but real thread connecting me to people I didn't even know. We're making things, I thought, separately but together — all 302 of us!

And I was reminded how little it takes to shift my mood, my perspective, my day. Sure, it's just a thin piece of paper, sent to a stranger. But it's a small, great gift, given with trust.

Want to stretch yourself and make someone happy? Write a postcard poem today.