Linda Nemec Foster, Tami Haaland, Lauren Camp, Shirley Camia (I interviewed all of these poets, except Tami.)

Isa Genzken Rose II

Isa Genzken Rose II

I have been running since about May 7 and no rest in sight as I write this from Brooklyn, in the city that does not sleep because jackhammers start at 7am and people are never afraid to use their car horn. Ever.

While I visit my daughter the journalist, I do NYC things like go to MOMA & select carefully from many other world class cultural offerings. (Village Vanguard tonight! Joe Lovano & Marilyn Crispell!!)

I also fill out reports for various granting agencies that supported the recent Cascadia Poetry Festival (reviews are trickling in: http://cascadiapoetryfestival.org/cpf-anacortes-2019-reviews/)


Paul E Nelson at MOMA 5.20.2019

Nicole Yurcaba & peN

BIPF Assistant Director Nicole Yurcaba and Your Humble Narrator

This after attending the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival, a folksy affair that had me doing a workshop on interviewing, a reading and three on stage interviews! The poets I interviewed were Lauren Camp from New Mexico, Shirley Camia of Manitoba via Denmark and Linda Nemec Foster of Grand Rapids, Michigan. I also deepened my friendship with Tami Haaland or Billings, Montana and met some cool poets, including Lyman Grant, once of Austin, TX, now of Harrisonburg, VA. I had a feeling we’d get along when I spotted his Black Mountain College bag. (Visiting the BMC Museum is on my list.) Linda’s reading of the only Czarnina Sestina I have ever heard was a highlight, as was Lauren’s evocative poems to Mabel Dodge Luhan, the legendary Taos writer/arts supporter/community builder.

Bridgewater College was founded by The Bretheren, a spiritual community that has long advocated pacifism and coordinated the conscientious objector camps in WWII, one of which (Camp Angell) I have been writing about in the latest chapter of my Pig War serial poem. So, to experience a small bit of what the Bretheren started in the Shenandoah Valley via the college they founded was memorable.

Stan Galloway FIst

Stan Galloway, BIPF Director

BIPF Director Stan Galloway, who graciously invited me out and treated me with first-class hospitality was not afraid to give poets “the fist” when their time was up.

All this is to say that I have not been blogging about the recent change in registration for the annual August Poetry Postcard Fest, which now has 133 poets signed up to participate starting July 4. We’re nearing the halfway mark to match last year’s level of participation and registration is here.


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August POetry POstcard Fest 2019 (Official Call)

The August Poetry Postcard Fest was initiated in 2007 by poets Paul Nelson and Lana Ayers. 2019 marks the thirteenth year of the fest and this is the official call. It is the biggest annual fundraiser for SPLAB.

Again this year poets will be organized in groups of 32 and the list will be released as each group gets the required amount of participants, or the registration period ends. The signup will end July 18. Registration is a minimum $10 contribution to participate this year which will go to fund SPLAB operations. SPLAB was founded in 1993. (See this.)

The page at which to register is: http://appf13.brownpapertickets.com

http://www.paulenelson.com/august-poetry-postcard-fest/ is the main page for the fest. 


1. Make sure you want to do this. It means writing at least 31 original poems onto cards and mailing them by August 31. There are no excuses short of (lord forbid) injuries, sickness or other unfortunate events, but if you sign up, please send 31 cards. (& use good penmanship. Remember THAT?!?)

2. Look to see where your name is on your list. You will get a list emailed to you after July 4 or soon after your group hits 32 participants and NOT when you pay the registration fee. Make sure your info is correct and each address is complete. LET ME KNOW ASAP IF NOT. Each group will have 32 poets. I’ll send the whole list to all participants when registration has closed. Please feel free to send this email, or the link to this event to post friends, or creative writing teachers. We hope to expand participation significantly in the next few years.

3. When you see your name on the list you get for your group, start sending original poems to those three people JUST BELOW your name. ie: If you are #10 on the list, you should send cards to: # 11 #12, #13 &c. Start when you get your list. If you want to wait until August 1 to begin, that’s ok. If you want to have more time to write 31 poems, start when you get your list. If you are at the bottom of the list, start with the names at the very top. ie: #32 will send to #1, #2 & #3. Send postcards until you have sent at least 31 total, continuing down from your name and going to the bottom, then going to the top of the list. (Some people also pick out a few extra poets, friends, neighbors, and write 35 or 40! I will provide all the participant addresses, but not until the registration closes.)

4. Once you start receiving poems, if there is a thread, a tone, an image, a fragrance, something that can inspire you in the next poem you send, use it. If not, don’t worry. Please refer to the call and the handy links there for more help on the how of this. https://www.paulenelson.com/august-poetry-postcard-fest and other links that drop down from there.

If you have people from outside your country on the list YOU MUST SEND EXTRA POSTAGE. From the US, in 2018, see: https://www.stamps.com/usps/postage-rate-increase/ Addresses out of the U.S. cost $1.15 in 2019. Some people recognize that the stamp itself can add flair to the card. If you send oversized cards, you’ll need a regular letter stamp in the U.S. See also: https://postcalc.usps.com/

Also from the USPS, note:

“You may think that your mailpiece is a “postcard,” because it is a single sheet of paper. But to qualify for mailing at the First-Class Mail postcard price, it must be:

At least 3-1/2 inches high x 5 inches long x 0.007 inch thick
No more than 4-1/4 inches high x 6 inches long x 0.016 inches thick…”

6. If you are on Facebook, check out the Facebook Postcard Fest page. Many people get excited about the fest, but I would suggest writing your poems and then chatting about them on the Facebook page or other social media AFTER the fest. Let’s try to recreate a feeling of the time BEFORE SOCIAL MEDIA. That page is moderated and posts will not be allowed if the spirit of the fest is violated. Spamming that list will result in the spammer being banned from the group and nasty poems being written about them.

7. DO NOT POST YOUR POEMS ONLINE UNTIL 30 DAYS AFTER THEY GET SENT and longer if the card was sent overseas. Pity to see it online before it arrives in the box. Kinda defeats the purpose. Also, ASK PERMISSION to post other people’s poems. OK? The image is fair game, but make sure the poet who sent you the poem grants permission for you to publish in any way.

8. Just putting this list together is a task. If you can get a question about the fest answered by reading something here (and all the links above) please do. Leave a comment in the comment section.

9. Document your cards before sending them out. Scanning both sides is one way, if you have a home scanner. Then re-typing the poems and recreating the line breaks is the way I have done it. There are many examples on this blog. See: https://www.paulenelson.com/august-poetry-postcard-fest-2014-afterword/ and https://www.paulenelson.com/august-poetry-postcard-fest-2013-afterword/ and https://www.paulenelson.com/august-poetry-postcard-fest-2015-afterword-2/

10. Have fun. This fest is designed to get you to trust your gut in the act of composition. Learning about the traditions of spontaneity in North American poetry and other disciplines has been life-changing for me and if you participate with trust in the process, you’ll also experience some degree of liberation, a little high, or both. Goddess-speed.

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Zhang Er Interview

A year after Sam Hamill’s death, in what might be his last book blurb, he writes: “Zhang Er brings us startling “burial ground poems from Chinese that are striking in their perspective and elegant in style and presentation. They represent a poetic sensibility that is unique and often profound, and I read them with great surprise and gratitude.”

Zhang Er, a poet and opera librettist from Beijing, is the author of many books of poetry in Chinese, 2017’s Closest to You, also Verses on Bird and So Translating Rivers and Cities. She has co-edited Another Kind of Nation: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Poetry and her opera libretti in English include Moon in the Mirror and Fiery Jade: Cai Yan. Her new book is First Mountain, co-translated from her original Chinese with Joseph Donahue. We had a chance to interview her Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Olympia, Washington.

1. Introduction: :54

2. Sam’s Blurb: Zhang Er discusses getting a blurb for the book from Sam Hamill ten days before he died and said that it showed he was a true poet to the end, promoting younger poets. Listen to Part 2: 2:38.

3. Culture Shock: Going to China, to her paternal grandparent’s village, to get a crash course in their tradition ideology and how her parents, secular Marxists, have abandoned that way of life, in part because of the Chinese Revolution, in part because of the encroach of Western values. Listen to Part 3: 9:46.

4. The Book of Rites. Zhang Er discussed this classic from ancient China and about the traditions of her grandfather and whether they can be classified as “Confucian” or not. She also discussed the status of women in Chinese culture as, essentially, property. Listen to Part 4: 6:17.

5. Prelude, Part 2. She read part 2 from the poem “Prelude” in her native Chinese and Your Humble Narrator read the English and a discussion of what inspired a certain line ensued. Listen to Part 5: 8:26.

6. Prelude, Part 3. She responded to a stanza in her poem:

Words are just
a ditch we dig
to direct the flow

of common sense.

She suggested the whole book is a process of self-questioning and reflecting leading as a way of addressing ambivalent issues in one’s life. She also responded to a question about lineation in her poems and how the density of the Chinese had to be more spread out in English. Listen to Part 6: 5:37.

7. The poem Warm the Tomb was read in Chinese and English and she elaborated on the old traditions and beliefs of how fire is used as purification method and communication intermediary. She is said it was not quite Taoism or Confucianism, and part “folk religion.” Listen to Part 7: 8:37.

8. She read the poem Paper Craft, Paul read the English translation and a short discussion ensued. Listen to Part 8: 11:06.

9. She discussed how this experience changed her own beliefs about life and death and provided context for her existence. She said the Western notion of “individuality” was severely questioned by the experience of the ritual and writing abut it and that it opened the door for other experiences in her writing life and life in general. She said First Mountain is a “core” book in her writing life and is nourishing to her without being dogmatic. Listen to Part 9: 5:27.

Listen to the whole interview unedited here.

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