How it works

Photograph by Chad Peltola

Photo by Chad Peltola on Unsplash

Postcard by German Montalvo

Postcard by Germán Montalvo

This is the official page for the Poetry Postcard Fest.

This is the official page for the Poetry Postcard Fest. The Fest was initiated in 2007 by poets Paul Nelson and Lana Ayers and involves people signing up to send 31 original poems on postcards to folks on their list before the end of August. It is the biggest annual fundraiser for SPLAB. In 2020 there were 544 participants in over 11 countries. (See THIS for details.) Registration for 2021 is open. See this essay in Rattle Magazine about the fest:

Once you are registered (click here to register) here are the INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Obtain or make at least 31 postcards, one for each poet on your list.

Some people make their cards. Many places (like this) can turn your pictures into cards, as can any decent print shop. Make sure you print on decent card stock.

2. After you register, and once your group has filled,

you will get a list via email and pdf. This will be on July 4 or after and it will be a DRAFT LIST. Find your name on that list and please make sure your info is correct. (You will get your group list when there are 32 in your group after July 4, 2021, or when registration ends.) We can no longer provide the whole list to participants, mainly because of privacy concerns. If you have concerns about YOUR privacy, use a P.O. Box for your address as many already do.

3. Once you get your list, start writing original poems directly (1st take) onto postcards addressed to the names below you on the list of poets.

(If you are #8 on the list, start with #9 and proceed from there.) Just like you’d write a typical postcard, only this one is a poem and linked to the epistle form, as you are writing TO someone. The idea is to practice spontaneity, that is write directly on the card in one take. If it’s hard at the start of the fest to do that, relax, because it gets better as the month goes on, no one can publish your poem without your permission and you are writing to a PERSON. (Usually a stranger, so act accordingly. Would you tell a stranger about your sex life? Probably not on the first card.) DON’T INSULT PEOPLE TO WHOM YOU WRITE. (BE NICE and write in the spirit of community.)

Review the links below for guidance ESPECIALLY the sending postcards to strangers blog post by David Sherman, the Ina Roy-Faderman testimonial and Linda Crosfield’s 7.14.16 blog post. Remember Allen Ginsberg’s paraphrase of the Blake quote: “Abstractions and Generalizations are the plea of the hypocrite, knave and scoundrel.” Or as Ezra Pound said: “Abstractions must be earned.” Really.

4. Once you have written cards to all poets below your name on your list, continue to the top of your group of 32.

Ideally you’ll be incorporating themes, tones or motifs from cards you have received. If you do not get cards from participants right away, or are not inspired by them, no problem, but do write at least 31 postcard poems if you sign up.

5. Don’t Post Your Own Poems Online Until a Month After You Send Them.

Also, do not publish anyone else’s poem without their written permission. Having a scanner helps to archive the image perfectly and scanners are now $100. Or you could take a photo of the image (or scan it) with your cellphone. Do realize if you are sending a card abroad, it may take longer than a month. Do not disclose any participant’s address online.

6. There is a Facebook page for the Poetry Postcard Fest but best to let the cards speak for themselves during the fest.

Once September starts, anything is fair game except spam. You might want to write after the fest about your experience. NEVER spam the list about any product or service, including your books.

7. The fest is open to people who contribute at least $15.00 U.S. to SPLAB. (That includes the service charge.)

I want to be a resource for you especially if you are trying to make the shift from relentless editing to learning how to develop trust for your instincts. This is the force behind the fest and, I think, the reason that it has grown in popularity over the years. There are costs to maintaining the email list (Mailchimp, Submittable &c.) and website. This is a fundraiser for SPLAB and provides enough for us to pay some bills. Contributions are welcome.

8. In 2017, Ina Roy and J.I. Kleinberg and I have created a postcard anthology.


To stay up to date on Poetry Postcard Fest information, subscribe to this blog. (The box in the upper right corner above? It says SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER. See below)

We send out an average of two emails a week from this blog and, the literary arts-oriented non-profit org founded in 1993.

9. Other pages nearby worth a look regarding postcards and spontaneous composition

are on the drop down nav below the Poetry Postcard Fest link above and here