Taking part in the August Poetry Postcard Fest

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDAugust 5, 2013 

This year my mailbox has divulged a number of tidily bundled offerings from MoonPath Press, the Kingston-based poetry publisher.

Among the chapbooks I've received, "Suits for the Swarm" is a muscular set of poems from Matt Gano, Seattle poetry slam champion and a national slam team coach. He writes of RC tracks, bike races, car troubles, fights with his brother and the cure for writer's block - more of that in a moment.

On the other end of the spectrum, "Impossible Lessons" showcases Bellingham poet Jennifer Bullis' considerations of the fetus growing inside of her, the animals entrusted to her care and the power of elders and myth.

Her poems are precise and sometimes playful - she needles "those intermittent bouts of doubt" in a poem called "Placebo Effect," and invokes the tang of basil leaves in a poem titled "Basal Cell Carcinoma."

And I'll also mention a clear-eyed collection called "Lean House," where Whidbey Island poet Marci Ameluxen contemplates her mother's mental illness and how it pervaded every aspect of her own life.

Poetry is the artful distillation of thought and emotion, and it is terrific to see the variety of voices being nurtured by MoonPath.

The force behind this publishing house is Lana Hechtman Ayers, who is involved in some other poetry presses, as well. And seven years ago, with Seattle poet Paul Nelson, she co-founded the annual August Poetry Postcard Fest.

Pardon the digression, dear reader, but I must tell you about this truly scintillating creative exercise, which is now underway.

Part of the beauty of the Poetry Postcard Fest is its simplicity. Early in the summer (registration for this year has closed), anybody who considers him/herself a poet can sign up to have their name and mailing address put on a list. At the end of July, the list is distributed and in August everyone enrolled is tasked with writing an original poem onto a postcard every day and sending the cards off in sequence to the 31 names following their own name on the list.

Each participant will, in exchange, receive poems from 31 other poets throughout the month of August.

Yours truly has signed up this year. I'll be sending out postcards to poets in Minnesota, Massachusetts and Manchester, England - and lots of places in between. I'm just one of 302 poets, scattered across 33 states and nine countries, who are engaging in the project this month.

I smile every time I think about all of these poetic souls dedicating their unique expressions of mood or place to a small square of paper and sending those poems out to navigate the flood of bills and junk mail, eventually to find welcoming harbor in the hands of a far-off stranger.

At this point I'm not worried about running out of subject matter, but if, by late August, I should find myself running dry, I will turn to Matt Gano's feisty, profanity-riddled poem, "Reclamantra" to remind myself to "let the rhythm in the ride/ be what I write."

Barbara Lloyd McMichael writes a weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at bkmonger@nwlink.com

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