The Work of Poetry in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
March 2, 2012 7:44 AM   Subscribe

Poems While You Wait A group of Chicago poets, led by Dave Landsberger and Kathleen Rooney, sets up shop at festivals, markets, libraries—even a planetarium—and writes "artisanal" poems on demand, in front of their customers, with proceeds going to a literary non-profit. And they're not the only ones.
posted by Zozo (8 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I did this in college. I used to write poems for dudes to give to their girlfriends. Mostly because I needed beer money and I'm a sensitive guy and stuff.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:59 AM on March 2, 2012

It's great to see Zach Houston appearing on the (?!) link, attesting to be the origin of the project. I have great memories of him stationed outside the Berkeley Bowl in 2005 with a typewriter and a dream. Sort of regret never commissioning a poem, although he did have quite the clientele...particularly young well-to-do females.
posted by obscurator at 8:02 AM on March 2, 2012

I read this the other day and thought it was a really cool idea. I especially like her point that the children didn't even question the worth of the poems. They just accepted that their dad was buying them something personal and valuable.
posted by Think_Long at 8:23 AM on March 2, 2012

I know of Dave from his participation a few years ago in Miami's Poem Depot. Which is run by the good people of the University of Wynnwood, which I feel deserves a shout out here. Because they're awesome. And yes, these events are super fun.
posted by bilabial at 8:45 AM on March 2, 2012

I believe I really can,
with some effort, make it scan.
I can make the letters sing,
I just can't make them
mean a thing.

Crap. Oh well, at least it ain't Prufrock.
posted by mule98J at 8:52 AM on March 2, 2012

Natalie Goldberg suggested doing a "poetry booth" way back when in Writing Down the Bones. Her method was stream-of-consciousness longhand though, not typewriter.
posted by tuesdayschild at 8:53 AM on March 2, 2012

I did this at an art festival in Reykjavík ten years ago. I wandered the streets in a shirt that said POET FOR RENT (well, except it said it in Icelandic so it really said SKÁLD TIL LEIGU) and offered to write poems on the subject of choice of the person renting me. I charged the equivalent of three dollars and spent the proceeds at a local independent record shop which was having a sale. I got a lot of albums I went on to love dearly.
posted by Kattullus at 8:57 AM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

I usually work at the San Francisco ferry plaza saturday farmers market these days. Plenty of fellow street poets these days, but I can say that when I began doing this in 2005 I hadn't seen it before. I asked a friend whose typewriter I went to borrow what I should write a poem about, wrote it and thought that if he and one other person paid me a few bucks, I would make about what my record store job in college paid. Since then, it has been my only job and spawned, as the list indicates, a lot of imitators. Methinks because it was on the tv. Or in the papers. Or an art museum. And because it works, to make money, make poetry, community. A small sample of the glut I have collected electronically and on paper can be found here. There are 7 years worth of undocumented distributions, thousands of poems emailed back, and voluminous unpublished introspection on the nature of language, money, art, public, skeuomorphics and greeting cards sitting in a briefcase. It is strange, and wonderful to know that because from a simple gesture of creative survivalism, there are literally tens of thousands more poems in the world. I could say much more on this topic but wouldn't know where to begin. Come to the ferry plaza and get a poem. I am the guy with the typewriter. and the sign that says "poems"
posted by zachhouston at 12:17 PM on March 2, 2012

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