Be inspired to write more and more often. Have fun writing with a friend. Strengthen your writing by engaging your senses and deepening your observations.
Betsy Fletcher, a retreat participant, first suggested postcard poetry to me. She had learned the exercise at a workshop with Sarah Zale, a poet on the Olympic Peninsula. Betsy and a her friend, Kathy, had exchanged poems over miles and months and felt both challenged and excited by the process.
I invited everyone at a seven-day retreat to bring picture postcards from home. We paired up so each of us had a writing partner. Our task was to write a poem on the message portion of the postcard and give it to our partner, one a day during the retreat. Moans of “I can’t write poetry” arose from some until I suggested they think of a poem as an observation, something they experienced with the senses. It could be from a memory or something in the moment outside the window:
The neighbor’s black cat sleeps in a circle of sun.
Only his tail twitches when a squirrel runs by.
Nothing fancy, just an image. That’s enough. A moment is noted and captured concisely. By the end of the week, everyone enjoyed the exchange of poems.
A month of so after the retreat, I decided I wanted a poetry book by Ted Kooser (US Poet Laureate, 2004-2006; Pulitzer Prize 2005 for Delights and Shadows). In making my choice I discovered a book entitled Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrison. In the preface, Kooser explains that after completing treatment for cancer:
“…I began taking a two-mile walk each morning. I’d been told by my radiation oncologist to stay out of the sun for a year because of skin sensitivity, so I exercised before dawn…. I’d all but given up on reading and writing. Then as autumn began to fade and winter came on, my health began to improve. One morning in November, following my walk, I surprised myself by trying my hand at a poem. Soon I was writing every day.”
Kooser began pasting his morning poems on postcards and sending them to his friend, Jim Harrison.
The idea that there could be an entire book of postcard poems delighted me. I bought the book and suggest you might want to do the same.
The only sound against this stillness:
A crow flaps through our Norway pines,
its wingtips brushing snowflakes from the needles.
You don’t need to match Kooser to do this exercise (remember, he has had years of practice!). You needn’t buy postcards or exchange poems with a friend, though doing so might keep you writing. I think I will send mine to you via Facebook. You can return the favor, it you like!