Saturday, August 31, 2013

POETRY PROJECT #31: "What Whales Want"

Incredibly, here I am at the end of a month of writing one short postcard poem per day.  For some people, this is not a big deal.  But for someone who has been simultaneously writing poems, remodeling her house, prepping for a new school year, dealing with family issues, health issues, and a few other minor details, THIS IS HUGE!!!

I leave you with this little meditation on whales.  When I saw this card, it was the oceans that grabbed me.  How MUCH ocean.  How filled that ocean is with life, creatures and beings who live out their time in the waters of this planet. 

Thank you for sticking it out with me, folks.  This project was exactly what I needed at this point in my sabbatical year - this bittersweet ending, this have-I-done-everything-I-wanted-to-do August.

And soon I will post a group photo of all the cards I've received this month - what riches.

Without further ado, the Last Poetry Project Poem (for now):

And here is the "group photo" of the postcard poems I have received in the month of August.  More may still be in the mail! but this is what I've got right now...what a luscious crop.

This is how the postcards look when they are keeping me company.
This is the postcards posing for the camera.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

POSTCARD PROJECT #27: "Manifesta"

Twenty-five cents.  That's how much this postcard cost me at the Antique Mall.  I've been living with this image for weeks now.  This morning, I heard her speak.

Monday, August 26, 2013

POSTCARD PROJECT # 26: "Somewhere around 36,000 feet"

This William Eggleston photograph has haunted me since the first time I saw it.  Things look so GOOD: the pretty sky, window seat, sparkly drink, delicate hand.  Then  you see the shadow of the unseen woman's hand, and it's so dang SCARY - like one of those movies where you can only see the monster's real shape in the mirror or something!  Duplicity ... Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde ... the way betrayal happens to you like a bad accident.  I also like the title: "En Route to New Orleans."  The kind of place where anything could happen. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013


So I looked at this postcard for a long, long time, trying to make a list of all the different cartographic words scattered around.  Pretty soon, that list began to take on a life of its own; I began to think beneath the words on the postcard, on the map, in my head.  What would my own private map of this map look like as a poem??

Then Wordle came to my rescue.  If you haven't tried a Wordle "Word Cloud," please do!  You can play with background and font colors, font sizes and types, orientation on the page ... it's poetry, visual poetry, and sometimes very emotionally revealing poetry.


(The original Wordle made with my list; some bits were trimmed off when I printed it out for the postcard.  The little, tiny, unreadable words are the names of continents, countries.  I decided it was right that they should matter so little.)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

POSTCARD PROJECT #21: "World Atlas"

I like maps.  I despise maps.

I like them for the ways they try to make sense of the world, which is impossible (but it's so important to think is possible).

I also really like subversive maps, or as these guys call them, subversive cartographies. One of my favorite maps is this one:

In fact, I taped this map up in the room I taught in one semester.  It got a lot of double-takes from students, and provoked a lot of good conversations.  I remember one student who could not even locate the United States using this map; he was that disoriented, which is the whole point.  Not completely sure that had a great effect on my course evaluations, however.

Maps can be empowering, because they give the makers a certain amount of control (even if it is only imaginary).  The map above would be a good example of empowerment for people in the Southern Hemisphere, for example; not so much for North American students.  But often, it's a case of map or be mapped.  You know:  if you don't do the mapping, the colonizers will do it for you - but doesn't that mean you are helping to colonize yourselves?  The quandaries!

So I bought some map postcards and will be playing around with them for awhile, I'm sure.  After all, my first book of poems was called Indian Cartography, and I'm pretty sure I'm not done with THAT mapping at all.

#21:  "World Atlas"

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

POSTCARD PROJECT #20, "The Gluten-Free Chicano Celebrates Bread" (lines from FaceBook posts)

I've got this great set of postcards featuring William Eggleston photographs.  He's perfect for writing stuff that's a little off the wall.  This particular postcard seemed to me to be about getting a meal in a strange place, noticing the oddities all around, especially as regards food.  This image dovetails with the fact that I'd noticed a lot of FaceBook posts today and yesterday about food (it IS one of the more popular topics on which to post), and so I collected the first ten or so that crossed my feed today and put them into this poem.  Yes, my FB friends: you may recognize your own food-related rantings!

Monday, August 19, 2013

POSTCARD PROJECT #18 & #19 "Dear Grandma" and "The Old Slave Market"

One of the best parts of the two big antique malls here in Lexington?  The bins of old postcards.  Everytime I need a little Retail Therapy, I head to one (or both, depending on the depth of my need) of these malls and just browse.  Sometimes I find something I like.  Other times I find something so incredibly funny, or offensive, that I have to buy it. 

Like #18, "Dear Grandma."  I did not write the poem here.  It is an actual postcard message.  Perhaps I can claim that I did this because Sunday was "Bad Poetry Day."  Or maybe some found poems are just too good to touch.  I did scan the card onto new paper, in part so that it was less fragile, and in part so I could erase the "To" address - it's now going to Nanaimo, B.C.  I'll add that original scan here.  Love the 3 cent Liberty postcard stamp!

Handwriting translation:

Dear "Grandma" -
Isn't this card 
cute and believe me it's
the truth.  So tired
of riding.  I've been
doing better at this
driving business.  Drove
20 miles yesterday.
Write me, hear.  I
already hate it out
here.  It stinks.

#19, "The Old Slave Market," is another antique market find.  I used the description on the back as the starting point for my poem.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Postcard Project #17, "Mrs. Sisyphus"

I love my children.  I do.  But there's not a mother on earth who has not thought this at some point in her parenting career.  We get over it.  Just in time to gloat over the grandchildren, usually!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Postcard Project # 15 & #16, "Whatever Happened to Bob?" and "Nobody's Wife"

 You've probably seen these images before - Anne Taintor is the designer, she's got pages of these on the internet.  I ordered a pack of 30 postcards because I love Taintor's dark, dry wit, and because I am entering a busy phase in terms of work.  I won't have the luxury of being able to make my own cards very often.

These postcard, with their 1950's images and blithe, biting commentary, immediately elicited some poetry from my deep dark past as a housewife, and I suspect, from my mother and grandmother's stories of their own housewifeliness.

Incidentally, many years ago in a workshop with poet Mimi Khalvati, writing poetry from random postcards was one of our assignments.  I really didn't like it, and the poem I produced was mediocre.  Now, however, I am thinking of giving a multi-postcard poetry assignment to my own students in the future.  Maybe even as a regular assignment, in addition to their other work.  Hmmm.  Watch out!

So:  without further ado...

#15:  "Whatever Happened to Bob?"

and #16:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

POSTCARD PROJECT: #11, #12, #13, #14 - CATCHING UP!

Life gets hectic, and my postcard motivation dropped.  But it's back, and I'm all caught up today.

#11 - "Interpretations"

#12 - "Careless Atlantic."

#13 - "Lizard"

#14 - "Endure"

Friday, August 9, 2013


Thanks to Patrice Hollrah for sending me this postcard, which she purchased in Tampa, Florida while visiting the Columbia Restaurant.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Dug this postcard out of my office mess as I unpack from yet another move.  Calamity Jane spent all of last year on my bulletin board next to my desk.  It's time she got back on that train and headed out for a stiff drink and a few dancing girls!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


This is an old postcard that I wrote about in an essay for Bad Indians.  My poem is based on an actual note scribbled on one of these archived postcards of The Three Belles of San Luis Rey, so it's a mix of found poetry that has some added lines.  Harvey and Mabel - I wonder if they ever got together, or if it was just a penpal thing??

Here is the archived postcard with Harvey's original note to Mabel: