Two Nights Only

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Check out these great pho­tos that Cleveland Public Library took while I was down­town this sum­mer writ­ing po­ems for their First Folio ex­hib­it!

Free Poetry for Shakespeare

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Cleveland Public Library asked me to come do Poetry 4 Free in the Eastman Reading Garden on a cou­ple of dates this sum­mer as part of their cel­e­bra­tion of the Folger Shakespeare Library First Folio ex­hib­it.

I had fun — it’s been a cou­ple of years since I was down­town writ­ing po­et­ry on the fly for folks, but I pret­ty much took right back to it. I wrote 11 Shakespeare-in­spired po­ems in 2 hours. Folks could ei­ther give me a fa­vorite pas­sage, or pick from a few that I had se­lect­ed.

Por ejem­p­lo:

Some folks had no idea who Shakespeare was, and oth­ers re­lat­ed hor­ri­fied anec­dotes from col­lege. A few peo­ple just grabbed a quote and took off with­out let­ting me write a po­em for them. Everybody seemed like they were hav­ing a good time.

Poetry 4 Free Update

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Today I wrote my 50th po­em in my Poetry 4 Free project. It’s been great fun so far; de­spite the heavy mock­ing from my cowork­ers and the ob­vi­ous & un­spo­ken doubt­ful­ness from cer­tain folks I know, it has ful­filled, at least in part, all of the goals I had in mind when I start­ed this back in April.

I’m def­i­nite­ly less afraid to write. I have be­come much bet­ter at tak­ing a top­ic and start­ing to write on it im­me­di­ate­ly. I think the po­ems I pro­duce in 5 – 10 min­utes could be deemed fair for that time frame. I’ve got­ten in­to a few ruts though, and have been try­ing to change up my meth­ods in or­der to keep things fresh. I don’t want to be a po­em fac­to­ry, so the rep­e­ti­tion is a bad from which I am at­tempt­ing to draw some good.

I re­ceived open-armed per­mis­sion from the won­der­ful folks at the Cleveland Public Library to set up every Friday in the Eastman Reading Garden, and post-fac­to bene­dic­tion from the la­dy who man­ages Star Plaza for Playhouse Square Development. I didn’t re­al­ize it wasn’t a pub­lic park.

Lots of peo­ple give the side-eye, few­er stop for a po­em, and, it seems, a large ma­jor­i­ty of the folks that do stop are in­ter­est­ed in telling a sto­ry about the dude with the hand-paint­ed sign and a type­writer. The first was a post on Captured Cleveland. Dan Moulthrop from Civic Commons stopped by for a po­em and tweet­ed about it. A fel­low writ­ing for Edible Cleveland want­ed to put a blurb about me in an ar­ti­cle on Walnut Wednesdays. A col­lage artist asked to use my po­em & pho­to in one of her works. My friend David Jurca even stopped by and took some video one day. Another day, an­oth­er fel­low did so.


I’ve had sev­er­al folks ask for po­ems as gifts, and a few re­turn to tell me how much the po­em was ap­pre­ci­at­ed. I’ve had sad and poignant re­quests from es­tranged hus­bands, sweet re­quests from lov­ing wives, sil­ly re­quests and chal­leng­ing ones. I’ve writ­ten about every­thing from mor­tal­i­ty to anal bleach­ing. I once ac­cept­ed a sil­ver dime as a tip, and I still feel vague­ly guilty about that.

I’m hav­ing a blast, even on days when I get skunked. But I’m al­so start­ing to sense that the cur­rent sta­tus quo isn’t as ful­fill­ing as it once was. I may need fresh ground to cov­er (I plan on set­ting up shop in Lincoln Park dur­ing the Arts in August events), or I may just be feel­ing too at ease with the par­a­digm. I’m open to sug­ges­tions about how to shuf­fle the project in dif­fer­ent ways, and I’m very in­ter­est­ed in fur­ther ways that I can make it less about me. One thing I need to do is write po­et­ry out­side of this project. I’ve been very pro­lif­ic for me, but the prac­tice has re­sult­ed in lit­tle ac­tu­al po­et­ry game time. Another change to be con­scious of.

You can fol­low this project on Twitter @Poetry4Free; find out where I’ll be and stop by for a po­em. I hope you will.

Poetry 4 Free

Thursday, 19 April 2012

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.