Poetry in a Pandemic: My First Year of PoPoFest

The beautiful assortment of cards I received

I first heard about the Poetry Postcard Festival in 2014; I have several friends who participate every year. I never joined, largely because I was afraid to put up money and then not actually follow through with it. But since I didn’t get to attend any poetry festivals or go on vacation this year, when I saw in Submittable that the 2020 registration deadline was closing soon, I decided to give it a shot. This was a chance to connect with other poets, and to maybe get some postcards from places I’d never been.

I didn’t actually struggle to get my poems out in the month of August. In fact, sitting down to write a tiny poem became the highlight of my month. I gave myself prompts by drawing a card from my Emily Dickinson tarot deck. I then had to tie the theme of the tarot card to the theme of the postcard. I knew that the reader on the other end would never actually see the tarot card I used, but my goal was to write each poem so that you wouldn’t need to know what had prompted me to start it. Usually I wrote my first poem of the day before walking Astrid. I would sometimes write three or four in a day if I was feeling especially inspired.

I also developed an affection for vintage postcards. When I started PoPoFest, I had a sizeable stack of postcards, most of which had come from my various travels. Some, though, were vintage postcards I’d found in antique stores. I found that I had the most fun writing poems for the old-fashioned cards, and when my stack ran out halfway through, I ordered two dozen vintage postcards from an Etsy seller to get me through, with enough to spare for next year. I also found myself especially charmed by the vintage postcards I received. One of my favorites is an old postcard of a Tokyo hotel. Since I had to cancel my trip to Japan this year, that card had an air of serendipity to it. In a time when I’ve been unable to see my friends or attend in-person poetry readings, receiving tiny poems in the mail brought a regular sense of joy and gratitude to the long, stifling days of Texas summer.

Some people in my group were ambitious and got their postcards out early, so I started receiving mail in July. Some people didn’t get their postcards out by August 31st (some people in my group had to deal with the fire situation), but I actually loved how the postcards trickled into September. I felt like it extended the celebration of poetry.

I loved being part of PoPoFest, and I am definitely going to sign up again for 2021. Hopefully we’ll have gotten through this pandemic by next August, but I’ll still cherish the sense of connection that this festival brings.

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