Poetry Postcard Fest: Black Mountain Style

June 1, 2021
by Paul Nelson

I was delighted to team up with postcarder (with a new book!) Margaret Lee for an essay that has been published in The Journal for Black Mountain College Studies, Volume 12. (pdf) Postcard poets represented include J.I. Kleinberg, Judy Jensen, Tim Mateer & Colette Dutton. The legendary and ground-breaking college hidden in the hills in Western North Carolina was a preview of Aquarian Age sensibilities, multi-racial, GLBTQ+ friendly and centered around creativity. The film Fully Awake: Black Mountain College told the story well:

During WWII, Black Mountain College was a haven for refugee European artists such as Josef and Anni Albers who arrived from the Bauhaus in Germany. In the socially conservative 1940s and 50s, the college also became a refuge for the American avant-garde, (Franz Kline, John Cage, Buckminster Fuller, Merce Cunningham, Robert Creeley, Jacob Lawrence, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, and M.C. Richards). Fully Awake explores how the confluence of this diverse community came together to create a unique educational model.

What a delight it was to collaborate with such a bright mind, who understands the message of the medium of postcards, light years away from the discord of social mierda like Facebook. An essay excerpt:

Sending postcards to strangers—a lost art, even quaint—has become the main gateway to the activities of a 27-year-old, literary arts-oriented, nonprofit organization. The Poetry Postcard Fest, inaugurated in 2007 by SPLAB (Seattle Poetics LAB), has become a way for poets to take their first step in aligning their cosmology and poetics. The mail art movement is said to have started with Ray Johnson in 1943, so the tradition is not exactly ancient, despite how out-of-date it feels in the age of instant communication. Jonathan Williams’ Jargon Society, Fluxus, Jack Spicer, Robin Blaser, Ted Berrigan, and others have experimented with postcards as art. Building on their insights, the Poetry Postcard Fest rests on a straightforward premise: practicing spontaneous composition on postcards allows one to attune to the moment. Poets write more, edit less, and begin to experience the depths of open form, including seriality, in the great tradition of the poets published in Black Mountain Review, including some who did not visit Black Mountain College, such as Denise Levertov and Michael McClure, and some who were influenced by projective verse, such as Paul Blackburn. READ MORE.

See Margaret’s website HERE & her debut poetry book here:

And register for the 15th Poetry Postcard Fest here.


  1. Susan Kay Anderson

    And Ed Dorn!

  2. Paul E Nelson

    YES & did you see the Lana Turner feature on Ed?

  3. Colette Dutton

    Thank you for including my poem and art “Disrupted” in the journal. I enjoyed the article.

    I feel that if one paragraph stood out as a great way to succinctly describe The Poetry Postcard Fest to those who may be wondering whether or not to join in it was this:

    “The Poetry Postcard Fest turns back the media clock by resorting to a tactile writing surface and direct, chirographic technique. Its engagement with paper postcards induces a media shift that places participants in a particular state of mind. The Fest’s communicative power comes in the exchange. Participants anticipate the poems that other poets create for them. Each card functions as a transparent surface where sender and receiver await one another’s presence and make contact. Paper postcards become windows to the deeper self.”

    I would also add that if handwriting does not add to the experience for some that they should still feel welcomed and valued with typed or computer generated text – it is in the spontaneity of putting your words to paper, and sharing unabashedly, that emphasizes the spirit of the fest.



  1. Poetry Postcard Fest | SICA-USA - […] visionary institution of higher education in the western hills of mid-20th century North Carolina. (More on that place here.)…

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