Cassie Lewis – Intro to Postcard Poems, February 200

Cassie Lewis

Intro to Postcard Poems, February 2007

Editor’s note:  The poems in this section are postcards that were exchanged in February 2007 among a group who celebrated their participation in several series of month-long postcard projects that began over five years ago. Here is Cassie Lewis’s introduction to a public reading in San Francisco honoring the completion of several chapbooks that bore the fruits of those original postcard swaps.

Intro for Postcard Poems Reading
at Oxygen Bar
August 3, 2003

readings (in pairs) by:
Cassie Lewis
Tim Yu
Stephanie Young
Jennifer Dannenberg
Nick Piombino
Catherine Meng
Del Ray Cross

I’m really glad you could all make it tonight.  Thank you all for coming to help us celebrate the launch of our series, ‘Postcard Poems’, and to Lisa and all at the Oxygen Bar.

I recommend the herbal drinks here, they’re pretty amazing, so please try lots of different ones while you’re here tonight.

I’ll start by outlining how this project started.  I moved to the Bay Area from Melbourne in 2000, and the following year took a class at San Francisco State in Creative Writing, taught by Dodie Bellamy.  I had the good fortune to meet Del, Jennifer and Tim in that class, and along with Elaine Morizono we began to meet monthly to discuss our poems.  A little later Stephanie joined our group.

Meanwhile, Del and I had undertaken to write each other a postcard each day for a month with a postcard poem on it.  There’s of course a long history to the postcard poem in its many iterations amongst the New York School poets.  The form of exchange we tried was inspired by David Kirschenbaum.  We found the process exhilarating, and liked the results.

A little later, in March 2002, the first Shampoo Magazine reading was held and I spontaneously decided to publish a selection of our postcards in chapbook form to
sell on the night. They went down well.

Since then many other collaborations have happened in quick succession, each one surprising, and revealing a previously unseen aspect of ourselves and our writing.  Part of what keeps the project fresh for us is this element of surprise.

It’s also been wonderful to be involved in the publishing process from start to finish.  It’s empowering to realise that behind all the mystique, publishing is very possible now by anyone with a printer and a computer – and online poetry publishing has bloomed in the past few years.  These books are a labour of collective love, and each writer’s contributions are essential.

Which brings me to another of the books’ strengths.  People have asked me what motivates the exchanges and, for me, I always say “writing for the sheer joy of it.”  It is so easy to lose sight of the fact that we, as poets, love poetry – which sounds inane but is very true.  Even vocation itself can become obscured by routine.  The postcard poems were, for me, a return to first principles, and a liberation from self.

The paradox was that from inside this self-forgetting so many strong poems were written.  I reread the poems of my friends in these books and am quietly awed by what has been achieved.

Tonight we’re going to read in pairs.  We’ve chosen some brief extracts from each of the books so far.  There’ll be a set of four pairs of readers, then a short break for you to refill your glasses.  Then we’ll have a second set.

Finally, I would like to thank my fellow readers. Tim Yu will be moving to Chicago in the Fall and this is an important day because we won’t be seing him for a while after that. We’re fortunate, too, that Nick Piombino is able to be here tonight, on vacation from the East Coast.

I should mention, too, that the books by Tim & Del, and Stephanie & Nick, are still in production, and that a collaboration between Jim Behrle and Del is also in the pipeline.

It has been great working with you all, and long may it continue. I’m going to close with a quote from Frank O’Hara:

“The sky was blue and something extraordinary happened.”

The reading

1. Del Ray Cross & Stephanie Young
2. Tim Yu & Cassie Lewis
3. Stephanie Young & Cassie Lewis
4. Nick Piombino & Stephanie Young


5. Stephanie Young & Catherine Meng
6. Jennifer Dannenberg & Casslie Lewis
7. Del Cross & Cassie Lewis

8. Tim Yu & Cassie Lewis

return to SHAMPOO 31