poetry stands

saturday, october 22

like lemonade stands for the child who tried to grow up, i ran my own poetry stand today. i took a paper plate, mixed paint until it covered the entire canvas, and wrote a pithy explanation for myself. “take one: poems. if you like it, pay what it’s worth to you.”

downtown on broadway, small town musicians with dreams bigger than their guitar cases will stand on corners collecting tips. so why not poets with the difference of having their words in tangible form, on paper?

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1:30 pm – the market day mornings are dwindling down, the people walking the streets are the polite kind that follow the honor system of giving tips for taking vendor items. i remove myself a bit from the mayhem, i set up at a table that doesn’t technically belong to a restaurant, right in the middle of broadway, catching artsy college students as they walk to a late lunch.
i remove the top half of my olivetti case, turn it upside down, lean my teal paper plate sign against it, and place the first poem down. time to see what happens.

2:00 pm – no takers. there’s a family behind me that’s pretending like i’m just a normal part of the background scene. really? a girl with a 1965 typewriter sitting there churning poems out in front of a pizza joint in 2016?
a kid walks around me growling “brainnnns.”

2:15-3:00 pm – some people walk by, some people stop but do nothing, some simply comment on how happy they are that the antiquities are not dead.

first taker – a woman tells the rest of her family to hold up. she wants to show them something. she thinks it’s cool, she gives me a dollar. (a dollar! i technically just sold my work!)

another picks it up, reads it, puts a dollar in, and tells me that he loves it, but he thinks it deserves to continue being read by someone else.

all of a sudden, another few people come up to the half page poems in my case. one man leaves a whole FIVE dollars. wow, i think. i write faster. (i thrive off of approval, who would have thought?)

a girl with her family makes several trips back. she brings her sister. she comes back again. just who am i? i smile and give her my instagram handle, this being 2016, after all.

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3:30 pm – i’m down to the last two pages to fill. the theme today seems to have been existentialism (when is it not, with me?) there was a poem on how politeness will kill you, i’m in the middle of a poem on a lifestyle of mistakes when another stranger comments on how it must be so different, typewriters from computers. spinning off of my current piece, i agree, saying that typewriters force me to write without editing. he says that he presses backspace without even thinking about it. i give him the poem that i’m working on. it starts with “you cannot edit as you create.”

3:35 pm – i pack up. the wind has made it cold, and i’m content with my day. the total? ten entire dollars. a five, four ones, four quarters. i predicted a hopeful five cents. this is a nice percent of error.
there’s one last poem left, and i hand it to the next person i see with a smile.

i gave away words today.

i didn’t sign the poems, but they are in that recognizable olivetti typeset.

the words are a mixture of red and blue.

i took a picture of each before i sent them on their way with strangers.

they weren’t all that good, instead, they were written in a state of massive distraction, and most are extended ramblings, and perhaps it was the setting that sold better than the words.

but i experienced writing on demand. i wrote to the immediate response of an audience. i wrote to tips. i wrote for strangers.

to see each of these poems, find them under impromptu poems.

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xx elim

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