I got an unsigned email this morning about the postcard fest:
wondering – why is there a fee for participating now? what is done with over $4000 you would collect if over 400 sign up (and pay) again?
i have done the august postcard poetry event for years now, but the cost of postage is daunting enough when one has several international folks on one’s list ( over a $1 for each). i try to find free postcards, or inexpensive ones, or make some, but that adds to the cost also, of course.
I responded with complete candor and felt like sharing it here without disclosing the email address/identity of the sender:
Hello and good morning.
I have answered the question you asked about why there is a fee on the main postcard page. That you opened the weekly email from my site thirteen times (according to Mailchimp, which provides that service to my literary-oriented non-profit for $15 a month) suggests this has great import to you. That you did not read the main postcard page is telling.
That, to my knowledge, you have never thanked me for creating the fest, for guiding it and making sure it happens for eight years and that you send an email to ask me very personal questions (what are you going to do with the money?) without even signing your name to the email tells me a lot about you. I want to think that you do not take my actions for granted and that money is tough for you right now and I can relate, going through a divorce, not being able to make a living doing radio, which was my calling since age 13, having a three year old daughter (kids are expensive,) having credit card and student loan debts and having several other poetry-related projects that continue to be not only volunteer positions, but some of which COST money to maintain (www.CascadiaPoetryFestival.com and the recent bioregional anthology for which I was main editor.)
So I want nothing more than to give you the benefit of the doubt and not feel like my efforts are being taken for granted. I do not want to feel like I was put here to be your servant or to feel like my motivations need to be greeted with suspicion.
I want people to experience the joy of making a few weeks in summer totally poetry-centric. That’s how it is for me (except when I wake up to emails like yours) and there is so much in our culture that stands in opposition to poetry, to creativity and to the imagination that it is a stand for me against the capitalist system and the culture which supports it without questioning it. Yet there are costs and then there is the matter of my time which has value to me.
If you think that the $10 registration fee is not justifiable, no one is compelling you to participate. In fact, I had a feeling that the fee would be a weeding out process to discourage people who sign up with good intentions and then renege on THEIR part of the deal by not sending out at least 31 cards, and it has been a weeding out process, since only about 160 have signed up so far. I prefer quality over quantity, so I can easily live with that level of participation.
Generosity is a quality that informs the best poetry. The poetry to which I am attracted is generous in spirit and the poets I want to be around have been tremendously generous to me for my one act of showing interest in their work. Generosity does not come easy to everybody, but I found my Cuban heritage to be a source of that when I visited Cuba ten years ago and I am grateful for that quality in my own bloodline.
Do what feels right to you _____. If the postcard fest is a hardship, please find some better way to get what you need from your creative activity and thank you for participating in the past.
So, to those who HAVE registered and expressed support for me (and many have said $10 is a reasonable request), thank you. I hope the fest is as joyful and life-changing (affirming) for you as it has been for me. Without you, this does not happen. Blessings.
i forget that my email does not show my name. did not mean to be rude. i wrote : “wondering – why is there a fee for participating now? what is done with over $4000 you would collect if over 400 sign up (and pay) again?” i took a quick look at something that was posted about the upcoming postcard event, apparently too precursory. no offense was intended.
I am leaving out the person’s name purposely. That they emailed quickly with this also says a lot about their consciousness and I am grateful for the dialog. It allowed me to answer some questions and consider my relationship to money and to myself, always a good use of time.
Paul Nelson is founder of SPLAB in Seattle and the Cascadia Poetry Festival. He wrote a collection of essays, Organic Poetry & a serial poem re-enacting the history of Auburn, WA, A Time Before Slaughter (shortlisted for a 2010 Genius Award by The Stranger.) He’s interviewed Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Wanda Coleman, Anne Waldman, Sam Hamill, Robin Blaser, Nate Mackey, Eileen Myles, George Bowering, Diane di Prima, Brenda Hillman, George Stanley, Joanne Kyger & many Cascadia poets, has presented his poetry and poetics in London, Brussels, Qinghai and Beijing, China, Lake Forest, Illinois and other places & writes an American Sentence every day. www.PaulENelson.com