Postcard Poems: an experiment in form

The final challenge over at Khara House’s Our Lost Jungle was to create your own poetic form and write a poem or two using that form. In some ways this was a daunting challenge but after I gave it some thought I realized all poetry forms come out of some poetry writing. The daunting part was Khara, bless her heart, wanted us to write the form and fit the poem to it. I suppose it wouldn’t be a challenge to place the horse before the cart.

I am big on postcards (I’m so this was a way to combine my lifelong postcard hobby and my poetry pursuits. I’ve written and collected a lot of postcards and written lots of poems on the backs of postcards but never thought of them as postcard poems per say.  This was an opportunity to set out on for some new territory.

Here are my postcard poetry form guidelines. There are seven of them. This seems like a lot but I wanted to incorporate all of Khara’s eight challenges.  If you want a simpler version skip down toward the bottom. I’ve summarized them there.

Postcard Poem

  1. A prose poem of not more than 36 words.(rule #5)
  2. Consists of three monostich sentences each of 12 words or less and 12 to 18 syllables. (rule #’s 1,5,6)
  3. The poem will contain, refer to or mention three elements: 1) some type of travel or destination or means of conveyance, 2) reveal a secret (personal, social or cultural, etc.,) or a humorous truth about yourself or someone else that the addressee does not know, and 3) be an ekphrasis, referring to a real or imagined image postcard image.  .  Here is a list of ekphrastic poetry. (rule #’s 3, 4,7)
  4. The first two sentences will be grammatically parallel; the third can be any structure. (rule #,4,7,8.
  5. Two of the sentences will have either an internal rhyme, alliteration or end rhyme. (rule #’s 2,6)
  6. There must be at least one figure of speech or trope (see list here), metonymy, metaphor, simile, personification, synecdoche, allegory, symbol (to name a few) in the poem. (#6,7)
  7.  Finally, the poem must be addressed to a person’s first name (real or imagined) and have a closing. (rule #8)

This may seem like a lot of rules (OK, I admit it is a lot of rules) but it is not so different than writing a postcard message. Hopefully, it will serve as a kind of literary echo of the normal postcard message. The rules should function to enhance the writing and bring forth something out of our poetry compost (Khara’s lost jungle) that may grow into a poem that blooms for us and may hold significance for readers in each season of our lives.

Simple version

If you don’t like these rules, try this. Write a poem of one and no more than three sentences of roughly equal length with a maximum of 36 words total that resembles a postcard greeting. Imagine writing to a loved one (or hated one) back home from an exotic (or boring location) and mention the image on the postcard you are writing on. Use colorful language (figures of speech: metaphor, simile, hyperbole. End with a short closing phrase and your first name (real or imagined). Include a closing phrase with your name if you wish.

The advantage of postcard poetry is that you never can run out of inspiration. All you need is a postcard and some imagination. Here is an example.

Here’s Picasso’s two hands with flowers. You and I now know love is never that bright or simple.
I’ll sign the papers before we get to Vegas.
Don’t look back, Kris

Now, it’s your turn. Try your hand at a postcard poem. Let me know how it comes out.


13 responses to “Postcard Poems: an experiment in form

  1. These are terrific, Kris. Loved both of them; such different messages and yet such intimate relationships. Kudos. I’ll have to try for one soon. Thanks for sharing this lovely little challenge of your own..

  2. I remember you mentioning something about a postcard poetry challenge earlier this summer. Am I right? I have to say that I am intrigued and loving your second one. I’m beginning to love ekphrasics and just might be giving this a try soon. . . now I just need to find some postcards.

    • The August Postcard Poetry Festival is almost over — 31 days, 31 poems. I’ve received some great poems. I hope the tradition will continue. My poems for APPF didn’t resemble my form at all. They were poems usually based on the first image that I saw out the window each morning. These were usually sonnet sized not three liners. The idea for my short form came after thinking about a postcard I inherited from my grandmother that was terse and to the point but said so much more than she intended with her words alone.
      If you’d like some postcards for inspiration send me your address ( and I’ll send you some wowsers or you can always visit my postcard blog: Postcard Images: 100 years of life, love and mystery.
      Your TriVail reminded me of a short version of Arabic Ghazals where each stanza is autonomous but related to the theme. Nice work.

  3. Pingback: postcard « jdubqca

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