This summer, at the very least, I’ll be erratically planting myself in various semi-populated places around Cleveland where there is foot traffic with a sign that says “Poetry 4 FREE” and a typewriter. I’m hoping that folks will stop and ask me for a poem. They give me the subject and I write it for them, right then. They walk away with the poem, and hopefully I’ve gotten a bit better at writing them. If this sounds intriguing to you, you can follow @Poetry4Free on Twitter to find out where I’ll be.
Many years ago, I read an article about a professor who ran a summer poetry program for high school students. One of the things they ended up doing was camping out in the town and writing impromptu poems for strangers/passerby. I wish I could find the article. I’m sure it took place on the East Coast, and I keep thinking Jersey. (Help.) I told my friend RA Washington about appropriating this idea around the same time, and, true to form, he’d already been there. Chopping out poems for fivers in Public Square. (My details may be a bit hazy here as well.) When I decided to finally get rolling with it, quite recently, I mentioned the project to my friend Kevin and he immediately brought up Abigail Mott, who has, and perhaps still is, doing basically the same thing.
So this idea isn’t even remotely original, but I’m doing it and here’s why.
Because I’m arrogant
I have extremely high self-esteem. I think that folks might actually be interested in having a complete stranger write them a poem, on the spot. I think that I can do it, and be good at it.
To practice humility
I need to keep my ego reined, so I am giving the poetry away; the only copy. If it’s the best poem I’ll ever write, I’ll be letting it go with whomever requested it. I’ll be letting go of control for a change. I’m not asking for money, I’m not even promoting myself. I’m still going back and forth on putting my name on the poems I produce.
Because I’m a coward
I rarely do any thing publicly because I’m afraid of sucking, being ignored, or being dismissed. This should help me sack up a bit.
To practice writing
I need to write more, and having someone else give me a topic means that I get to practice without feeling the guilt that I’m just ego tripping. Even though, in most ways, I still think I am.
Hopefully I’ll see you out there.