Thursday, June 11, 2015

Laura Shovan: Summer Postcard Poetry

"Postcards" by Stefano Montagner

Having just returned from the 100 Thousand Poets for Change World Conference in Italy, TLD contributor Laura Shovan is here with a splendido postcard activity for the summer months. 

Welcome back, Laura!

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Summer is almost here. Do you have your day trips, camps, or vacations planned yet? The children may be out of school, but summer offers wonderful opportunities for families to write together. Whether you’re visiting the local science museum, spending a week at the beach, or stopping by a relative’s house, sending a postcard is a great way to encourage writing.

I love postcards. For years, I’ve kept a small album filled not with photographs, but with postcards that friends and family have sent our family from their travels.  Postcards aren’t just about the picture. The written message is a little peek into someone else’s exciting adventure.

Making a poetry postcard is one way to say “Wish You Were Here” to a friend back home. This is a simple project that families can work on together. I like using this project to work on imagery-writing skills: emergent writers can observe the five senses, while children who are ready for a challenge can opt to create similes.

Make Your Own Poetry Postcard

You will need:
  • 4 x 6 index cards (or purchase a souvenir postcard)
  • Paper for notes (or use index cards)
  • Colored pencils (optional)
  • Your five senses!

On Memorial Day, my husband and I went to an outdoor café at Lake Kittamaqundi. There were colorful paddle boats floating on the lake. It was such a beautiful day here in Maryland, I thought, “My niece and nephew would love to be here, paddling on the lake.”

Paddle boats at Lake Kittamaqundi

I took out my index card and started writing down notes about what I observed, with some help from my husband.

Taking notes at the café

1.  On your paper or an extra index card, describe the place you’re observing using your five senses.
     What do you see?
     What do you hear?
     What do you feel?
     What do you smell?
     What do you taste?
2.  Challenge option: can you make a simile for any of your images? 

     SENSE: I see that the lake has ripples.
     SIMILE: The lake’s surface looks as rough
                       as a turtle’s shell.

3.  If you are making your own postcard, sketch a picture on the unlined side of a clean index card.

Sketch of the pirate boat (with Uncle Rob's pterodactyl)

4.  On the lined side of your postcard, draw a line to make a left and right side.

5.  Use your ideas from Step 1 and Step 2 to write a message on the left side of your postcard OR write a five senses poem using your notes.  (Be sure to leave the right side of the postcard blank for the address.)

Keep it simple for younger kids.
I see a red pirate ship paddle across the lake.
I feel the breeze play with my hair.
I smell the green of new leaves.
I hear ice tinkle in a glass.
I taste sharp, sweet lemonade.
6.  If you are making your own postcard, color or decorate it.

Finished drawing of Auntie Laura in the red pirate paddle boat

7.  Add an address and a stamp.

8.  Send!

Postcard from Lake Kittamaqundi
For Madeline & Caspian

Have you ever munched on the roots
of a blade of grass? That was the scent
on the breeze today, so I thought of you.
The lake was speckled with paddle boats—
a swan, a pink flamingo—
you would have captained the red
pirate ship, so I thought of you.
At the café, the waitress’s orange fingernails
were a bed of daylilies in bloom.
The ice in my lemonade tinkled
as the waitress handed it to me.
I took a sip and it was sweet,
so I thought of you.

© 2015 Laura Shovan. All rights reserved.

Laura Shovan is poetry editor for the literary journal Little Patuxent Review and of two poetry anthologies. Her chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone, won the inaugural Harriss Poetry Prize. She works with young poets as a Maryland State Arts Council Artist-in-Residence. Her debut novel-in-verse for children, THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY, will be published in spring of 2016 (Wendy Lamb Books). Laura blogs about arts education at AuthorAmok.

What a wonderful momento of summertime adventures– thank you, Laura, for this fun family activity! 

Read Laura's other posts on Today's Little Ditty:

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In case you missed last week's interview with Corey Rosen Schwartz, we're stretching our rhyming muscles while building treehouses this month. Katie Gast's clever chicken was the first to be featured. What's next is up to you!

Jama is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Jama's Alphabet Soup. Stop by for a poem and a taste of something sweet.


  1. What a wonderful idea! I am just back from a trip to Singapore and wish I had thought to send poem cards home. Next time!

  2. Great project! "So I thought of you" gave me a warm feeling. Receiving the poem, and reading that repeated line, would certainly make a kid feel special.

  3. Beautiful poem, Laura. I love that "So I thought of you" too. You know how much I love postcards, still sending to my grandson, but now, at the beach later this summer, perhaps we'll all create postcards & send them to family who can't be with us. I have lots of blanks to take along! Thank you, & happy that you had such a marvelous trip.

  4. What a great project Laura has showcased for us. Since I am a collector of antique postcards, I am always on the lookout for treasured memories and warm greetings. I will have to go back into my summer collection and see what strikes my fancy. Michelle, I am hoping that you can find a spring poem in your archives to send along for Spring's Symphony. I extended the deadline.

  5. I'm feeling guilty, because sometimes I buy postcards (especially at museums) to send home and then love them so much I keep them and call home instead! But I'm promising myself right now that I will draw a few - I know I can part with those - and compose little ditties to send people at home. Thanks, Laura. And thanks, Michelle for posting this.

  6. I have the same problem Julie does! :) What a gift from Auntie Laura... lovely!

  7. Such a perfect post to kick off summer. And honestly, I simply adore this poem. I love every word of it. Thank you for today, Michelle and Laura! (Laura - Would you like my address?) xo

  8. I love to paint postcard-sized water colors. I always bring the materials when I travel. Then I have a personal souvenir of a sight I really studied and brought to life. I never send them through the mail, though. I hoard them. I have a whole box of them.

    1. What a fun tradition! It must be fun to look through your postcard memories.

  9. Oh, I am SO going to do this with my grandson, grand nieces and grand nephews! What absolutely incredible fun! Why haven't I done this before? And the poem - sweet!

  10. Wonderful project. I am noticing that people don't send as many travel postcards as before. Maybe that has to do with posting everything on social media. It sure is nice to receive a memento in the mail -- and with a handwritten poem, what could be better than that? Thanks, Laura and Michelle!

  11. Really enjoyed this! Thank you for sharing.

  12. Thanks for your comments everyone! I am still recovering from a long day of travel yesterday, but I'm enjoying reading your feedback on the post.

  13. I can't wait to send some postcard poems!

  14. Oh, Laura. What a beautiful poem. And what a spectacular postcard idea. I cannot wait to use it. I was thinking. I might even write these for myself too. To pull out for inspiration in my writing. :-)

    Michelle, I've been sick with bronchitis for several weeks. Can't wait to get back with the little ditty you have for us.

    1. Ack! So sorry you've been dealing with bronchitis for so long, Robyn. I'm glad you're feeling better and look forward to reading your ditty this month. :)

  15. I love this! I would love receiving one of these and may have to try writing and sending a few myself! Thanks for sharing this terrific idea!

  16. What a fun idea! I think I will do this, with or without my kids.

  17. My 11 year old and I were just looking for a summer project and now we found one - postcard poems! Thank you for the inspiration, Laura. And thank you, Michelle, for being a great resource to the poetry community. =)

  18. Super idea. I think my grandkids should make some of these. Thanks for this post.

  19. I love this idea. I take my students on a writing marathon downtown and this idea would be perfect as a writing prompt. Thanks for sharing!
    I thought of you, Laura, while I was in an antique shop yesterday. I bought 6 vintage postcards. Starting a collection.

  20. I love this idea, too - tucking it away for a first week of school activity. Laura's poem blew me away - so rich in imagery, and wistful.

  21. Postcard Poetry is a wonderful idea, Laura! Thanks so much for sharing, Michelle!

  22. Great post! Thanks, you two, for sharing. I've been drooling over the Italy pix on Facebook, by the way...
    And I always think of you, Laura, when perusing old postcards in antique shops. I'm also as interested in the handwritten notes and antique stamps as in the images!

  23. So fun and creative. Love your poem, Laura :-)