I love post cards. I’ve kept a number of my favorites for a very long time. They lean against a lamp or on a bookshelf. Sometimes they disappear, turning up months later–rescued from a file folder or pried from the place where they’ve lodged between a desk and wall. When I can’t find them, I feel bereft. It’s as if I’ve lost a piece of jewelry or a key. Really, my attachment can be a little ridiculous.
I always think of the right post card as being like a small gift—of the picture itself and of the place it evokes. At times, a card is somethiing I’ve given myself such as the picture of a room in New Harmony, Indiana I kept over my desk while I worked on Suite Harmonic and then couldn’t find when I’d decided it would be the book’s cover. I hunted and hunted. Finally, I tracked down another copy, then secured rights to the original picture and made arrangements for photographing a Union jacket at the Minnesota History Center to PhotoShop into the room. Now I have two copies of the original post card since the first one has miraculously reappeared.
Right now, only one of my favorite post cards is missing. It’s a card a friend sent me several years ago knowing I would be captured–as he was–by its mix of Greek blue sky and blue sea and sun-lit white walls. As it happens, I have a different post card with an image by the same photographer. Another friend sent it to me in 1993, and I kept it on my desk, fascinated by it, until I eventually made it the subject of a poem, “Transmission,” which is included in the Selected Poems on this site. I had wanted to reproduce a picture of the post card along with the poem. However, though I tracked down the photographer’s studio on the Internet and even discovered an elaborate wedding video he had shot (intriguing if irrelevant), my emails went unanswered. I couldn’t secure reproduction rights. The poem is all you get.
In addition to the “Transmission” and New Harmony post cards, I have three other favorites on my desk as I’m typing. One was purchased in the Caribbean while I was doing research for The Second Magician’s Tale. When I wanted to use it to illustrate an excerpt of the book that evokes Guadeloupe, it took a number of emails with the photographer’s very helpful representative, but I did secure rights. You can see it here.
The fourth post card, again sent to me by a friend, features a vibrant picture of a Casablanca market—wonderful grains and green bottles, wooden and enameled bowls. The various wares, in shades of golden orange, ring a blue unshuttered window. There’s an important and mysterious red triangle anchoring the picture. Imagine it, if you will. Again, I don’t have reproduction rights.
The final post card is the one that illustrates this post and, like many of the pictures on this website, is © Robert Meier who—lucky for me—is always happy to let me use his photographs. I like this card’s cheeky combination of newspaper, reading and legs, and its puzzle pieces. It’s a card I sent as part of a packet—self-addressed and stamped post card, book(s), bookmarks, bookplate, cover letter, article reprints—to dozens of newspaper book editors across the country. That was before I knew review copies need to land eight months before publication (that could have fit my schedule?) or that, with the downsizing of the news industry, very few newspapers even review books anymore. Of all the post cards I included in those packages, two made their way back to me, one without a message, one with a kind note (shout-out here) from Karen Long of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Perhaps it was as futile an effort as it sounds, an utterly lost mission.
But maybe not. Maybe there are actually people out there reading those books. Maybe others are staring at those kicky legs or crawling under a desk to retrieve the card that has fluttered away and then planting it, dog-eared, back on its corner of the desk. I like to think so. I also like to think it’s a card that’s become indispensable.