23 January 2011

Upholding a Literary Tradition for the Third Year in a Row: Postcard Poems

For the past two years I hand sketched postcards for that most dreaded of holidays: St. Valentine's Day.  I think I am one of the few people who insist on keeping the S-A-I-N-T on the holiday.  I don't insist for religious reasons, more for tradition.  I am perfectly aware that the story of St. Valentine was most likely conflated with some horrible then contemporary bodice-ripping tale, but the Church changed the names and then...  A saint has nothing to do with our modern greeting card and candy driven wallow in pink and red excess.  Do Americans do anything but excess?  Holidays, War, Debt.

Enough imperialistic woe for a moment.  I started two years ago by hand drawing and coloring post cards for my friends.  I loved getting valentines in elementary.  We make "mailboxes" out of white paper bakery bags and adorned them with our names and a myriad of misshapen construction paper hearts.  It was the one time of year that a young gay boy like me could put pink on something and not be beaten up for it.  I wanted to recapture that feeling from childhood, not the secret pink feeling, but the other feeling, the valentine card adrenaline rush.  Each postcard had a poem on the back and was sent in the mail to the people who had signed up to participate.

According to my LiveJournal, I sent out 41 valentines in 2009 and that number jumped to 60 in 2010.  I decided to set a goal of 100 this year.  I will mail out 100 and attempt to hand out the rest for the locals who want them.  I invited 300 people on Facebook, but if I sent that many out by post it would cost me nearly $100 in postage.  I love you all, but not that much.  So be one of the first 100 to sign up.

This year, I sketched six designs and I am very happy with four of them.  Three are nature themed and three are man-made objects.  I won't say more because I don't want to ruin the surprise. 

I only write one poem per year for this event.  I stole the idea from the poet Ted Kooser who put 26 or so of his poems together in a book.  He said that he had to stop sending the valentines out to beautiful women because of postage costs.  I send mine to boys and girls and genders in between.  St. Valentine's Day is the one time of year I can send my straight crushes valentines and they thank me for it.

This holiday has gotten a bad rap.  If you are single (like I have been on this holiday) you can still get a card.  I think this is a day to remember those we love regardless if that love is of a romantic nature or not.  I have suffered with other veterans of this holiday (having been dumped twice on or in near proximity to the big day).  St. Valentine's Day, I reclaim you for the forces of good cheer!

Here is to wild third-grade enthusiasm, mad non-kissing crushes, and to how I can ensure that some people in America who won't read a poem on their own will read one poem this year!

16 January 2011

Correspondence and Post in a Digital World

What good is a letter sent by snail mail these days?  Don’t get me wrong, most of us appreciate hand written letters.  They are such an unexpected pleasure to receive in an age of tweets, text messages and e-mail.  It takes time to put pen paper, label an envelope and hunt for stamps.  It’s much easier to post “Have a Great Birthday!!!” on someone’s Facebook wall cross one more thing off the To-Do list.

A letter has an aesthetic pleasure for certain, but I would say it weighs even heavier than pleasure.  We know a great deal of what we know about earlier writers and poets from their letters.  Where would our conceptions of the spare writing Elizabeth Bishop be without her correspondence?  I could never imagine her having a torrid love affair in South America from her gem-like poems.

The letters of John Keats is where we poets get the idea of negative capability (the poet’s capacity for accepting uncertainty and the unresolved.)  He didn’t lecture on it.  Keats wrote letters filled with his ideas about poetry.  Letters to a Young Poet, a correspondence of ten letters between Rainer Maria Rilke and an aspiring writer have informed other aspiring poets for nearly a century.

In the “old days” letter writing was the main means of communication between artists about their lives and their craft.  In today’s digital age, with the impermanence of e-mail, I wonder what records writers will leave for history.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t save most email or print it out for posterity the way I bundle letters together in a box.  They simply disappear back into the internet’s invisible sea. 

This fall my ex boyfriend sent me letters that I wrote to him twelve years ago while he was in Spain.  He thoughtfully saved my correspondence long after the relationship ended.  The box I received contained 70-80 cards and letters totaling almost 250 hand-written pages.  I was twenty-two and in love.

I was writing a memoir piece about this same period in my life.  My memories were supported, amended, edited and contradicted by what the letters contained.  From September of 1998 to June of 1999 (after reading the letters) I have a very good idea of who I was and what was happening in my life.  My memory failed to illuminate so many people, situations and experiences that would have been lost without this correspondence.

Letters continue to have value in our age of rocketing technology.  They remain a physical artifact when so much of our words are becoming digital ephemera.  This post isn’t to encourage or chide you to turn back the clock and being writing letters again (yes it is), but to highlight what I have learned from firsthand experience.  I will continue to write my friends few and far between who write me back.  I want to know about myself someday far in the future and I know my memory is a hazy lens at best. 

09 January 2011

It's the First Week of Spring Semester and So I Give You "Spring" in January

I am off to a busy week, so please stand by.  Next week I have an amazing guest blogger, so sit tight and enjoy the photographs.  They were all taken from my porch in Bellingham this afternoon.

02 January 2011

New Year means New Poetry in New Journals!

I'm happy to announce that four of my poems in the "Carbonite Dream Series" are now in Issue #3 of Ghost Ocean Magazine

Read the whole issue for free online at: http://www.ghostoceanmagazine.com/

Click on "Current Issue" and then you will see my name under poetry. 

I am doubly pleased to see that Kathleen Rooney, one of the co-founders of Rose Metal Press also has some work in this issue.  I first spoke to Kathleen when Rose Metal Press published Carol Guess's book Tinderbox Lawn back in 2008.  As a writer, it is nice to see your own work next to those other writers that you admire.

Take a moment and stop by to read the poems.  They are inspired by my love of noir, dream sequences and that every murky form the prose poem.


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