In late October Ivy Alvarez put the call out to poets to send her one poem a week on a postcard throughout November, in return for which she would do the same. I was interested in the idea, not only because of its promise of delivering brand new I. Alvarez poems straight to my mailbox, but also for the inspiration it would hopefully give me to write some new poems myself, and to discuss them critically with Ivy. A sort of workshop-by-mail, if you will.
It didn’t work out exactly that way. Instead of writing brand new poems, I ended up sending Ivy poems that I had already written, but which I wasn’t yet satisfied were finished. For the first week I tried to write an entirely new poem, but struggled to get something done in time, so instead simply sent an existing poem that I was pretty sure Ivy hadn’t already read, but which seemed like it was about the right size for a postcard (I was almost right – I had to squeeze the last line into the bottom corner to make the whole poem fit).
For the remainder of the month I compromised. Instead of writing new poems, I sifted through my unfinished poems pile to find things that I thought were close enough to done to be able to be finalised with a couple of days’ revision. It was a good opportunity to readdress some nearly-there poems and get some feedback from Ivy about them.
I found the process of copying out poems by hand in particular – as opposed to typing them on a screen – a very fruitful process. There’s something in the act of holding a pen and guiding it across the page that engages the mind in a way that’s distinct from the way it’s engaged when tapping at a keyboard. Maybe it’s the fact that the words come slower, which allows you to give them more consideration as they emerge.
I’ve often turned to recitation as a way to give a poem a different kind of analysis while writing. Reading a poem aloud can give you a sense of the way the words fit together in a way beyond the visual, and in the same way writing them out by hand created a certain tactile sense of composition that was again distinct from the visual or the aural. It felt like a great discovery of a new obvious technique that I had always had at my disposal.
So anyway, here’s the first four postcards that Ivy and I swapped. I’ll post the rest at a later date, once they’ve all arrived.