Thank you to Caitlin O’Sullivan, founder and managing editor of The Postcard Press for discussing her press with us. She is a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing candidate at Minnesota State University, Mankato, where she is writing a historical novel about bank robbers hiding out in a small town. Look for The Postcard Press at the Twin Cities Book Festival in Minneapolis on October 15.
For more on Postcard Poetry, you might be interested in recent posts.
I've always loved postcards and think this is a great way to combine poetry and postcards. I read on your site a bit about how you got started with this idea. How has the original idea shifted or grown as you've published poems and postcards?
Well, originally, I envisioned the postcard designs I’d be doing as very simple, very minimally designed, because I’m a pretty terrible artist. But I’ve been lucky to work with several artists who’ve leant a hand to creating some beautiful postcard designs: Jorge Evans, who did “How to Make a Bullet,” Emily J. Eisenhauer, who did “Angelique,” and David Johnson, who did Michael Martone’s postcards and “Paper Chain.” So instead of having, say, a green postcard for July and a blue postcard for August, I’ve been able to send out postcards that I consider little works of art. I think it’s a unique opportunity for writers, to have a work of art designed around your words.
Postcard poems seem closely related to the broadside. Can you discuss how these two art forms might be both similar and different?
They’re very similar. Originally, broadsides were sheets of paper which varied in size, and which were printed with news accounts, poems, and fables. Peddlers would sell them on the street for a few pennies. Now, broadsides are often beautifully typeset and designed poetry that’s intended to be displayed. Postcard poems are a kind of hybrid of the old and new broadsides: they’re intended to be displayed, but they’re also inexpensive and intended for a popular audience. They’re broadsides for your refrigerator or your cubicle, rather than the wall of your study.
As a writer, has your work been influenced by this project?
I think the greatest impact has been on my understanding of literary magazines and the submissions process. There are many, many good writers out there, and very small details—two or three weak lines, or a poorly-chosen title—can be the kinds of things that editors seize on when they have to make the difficult choice between two pieces they like. So I’m definitely paying more attention to the details in my work.
Your postcards vary greatly in tone and style. What are you looking for when you consider your submissions? Who does your printing and who designs the art?
I’m looking for a connection, the sense that I’m reading about or through the eyes of a human being. (Sometimes that connection comes through strongest in contributor bios—I’ve had one or two bios that I’d like to publish as flash nonfiction.) I like concrete details and strong images—in part because that’s a preference of mine, but also because it’s easier to design postcards which already have some visual cues in the text.
Right now, I’m working with David Johnson, a friend of mine, to do the designs; he’s a sculptor and a designer, but his real artistic love is painting. My printers are a local father-and-son team, Gayle and Tyler, who take care of me when I bring in files and say “I don’t know if you can work with this but . . .”. They can always make it work.
Be sure to visit The Postcard Press website for more!