Poems, Songs, Stories, Thoughts

PoPo Fest 2021

No, I’m not talking about the police here (and if you know me or follow my blog, you should know that):

Poetry Postcard Fest is an annual event facilitated by what is now known as Cascadia Poetics Lab, which I learned about from Paul E. Nelson’s Rattlecast interview last year. Basically, you sign up through Submittable and pay $15 to be put into a group of 30 other people around the world who have agreed to write a poem a day for a month and mail each one on a postcard. Sounds like fun, right? Well, it was, but once again, it seems my expectations exceeded reality. (If you’d like to read about how I thought I had learned my lesson on this front years ago—ha!—click here.)

I signed up in February, and received my list of people and addresses in July. Anxious to get started (and shove all my very complicated feelings into poems to be sent to complete strangers), I started writing pretty much right away, but planned not to mail anything until I started receiving cards. On the CPL (formerly SPLAB) website, the guidelines said to write the poems directly on the cards (i.e. no revisions or early drafts in a notebook or online) and send one out each day of August. Various blogs and previous participants indicated that sometimes people sent cards out early or late, but I still expected people to be on roughly the same page and follow as closely to those guidelines as possible, barring personal tragedy or other significant upheavals.

That was not the case.

Now, I want to pause here to say that I did enjoy the process, and I’m grateful to Paul and all the poets who participated for making this possible. That said, I was pretty disappointed to find that most people seemed to be playing very fast and loose with the “rules,” and due to things I was going through at the time, I got kinda depressed when a whole week, and then another, went by without a card in my mailbox. Here I was, cranking out poems and committing to this challenge to flex my creative muscles and try and sort myself out, and it felt like everyone else was just jotting things down and throwing poems out whenever. That was hard to take.

Eventually, I was able to see that I was being a little too harsh on people, but I also realized how deeply ingrained in me is that need for control in my life. I don’t know if I’ll ever really be able to internalize this revelation in a way that allows me to truly let go of things I need to let go of, but achieving self-awareness is a never-ending process, right?

Anyway, I’m glad I did it, and I might even do it again next year, if I can bring myself to lower the bar and accept the uncertain nature of sending poems through the U.S. Postal Service. (Although, I really don’t think the PO was to blame, in most cases, as every card I received came about 4-5 days after its postmark date, but who knows.)

All the cards I received for PoPo Fest 2021.

I also want to give a special shout out to Joe Cottonwood and Sara Jameson, two poets who sent me bonus cards because they sympathized with me not receiving all my cards/receiving cards in a timely fashion. Even with their cards, I think I only received 27 (one not pictured above)—two came in July, four came in September, and one didn’t arrive until Oct. 9—but, c’est la vie.

If you want to see the individual cards I received closer up, scroll through the slideshow below.

You’ll notice there aren’t any pictures of actual poems in this post, since most of mine were pretty personal and I’m not quite ready to share them yet (some I want to submit to journals first!), and I can’t show you others’ poems, since that would count as publishing them. But, here are the first two I wrote, to sate your poetic hunger, perhaps:

If you’d like to participate in PoPoFest ’22, click here to register!

2 thoughts on “PoPo Fest 2021”

    1. Mail them? Yes. Write a brand new poem on a postcard, send it to someone you’ve never met, using the addresses provided to you by Cascadia Poetics Lab after signup.


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