When I sit down at my typewriter, I feel as if a wanderer in the Wild West. This is my favorite place to be. Everything is peaceful and quiet inside me. I generally begin by typing out a few warm-up poems. If I think they are a good fit for my poetry box (what was designed as a cassette tape carrying case and fits my poems like a charm), I will pop them in there for sale.
Pictured above: Me writing in Asheville, North Carolina in front of the iron statue, circa January 2022. Photo taken by ari_g_studio_.
You're literally screaming at a man sitting at a typewriter on the main street, I thought to myself. "This is all wrong. Did you do this on purpose?" she asked me.
She pointed to the title on the second copy, holding up two pieces of paper, each with identical content. I tell clients I am happy to compose one poem over again for any significant errors, which usually only extends to misspelling of peoples' names, which was not the case here. "The title is not right", she says, "look how it is here," she shows me the original. "I'm giving this to my niece!" This, of course, I was aware of. "I already rewrote the poem for you; what exactly is the issue now?" I ask. "The first one has all these mistakes", (by mistakes she means some letters are darker than others due to the machine typing over incorrect letters) "and the second one has this space between the title and the writing."
This was the second time she came back to complain. After composing and giving her the original to read, she became sour. "What is this?" she asked, bothered by the light and dark print. I agreed to type the poem over and she came back to pick it up.
This first time I gave her the benefit of the doubt, it could look nicer, I thought. But now I knew I was not in the wrong and I was getting rather fed up. "Take these two copies. I won't charge you for the second one. I already rewrote it. The poems are written on a typewriter; sometimes these errors come up. I am composing them on the spot!" At some point, the issue seemed to be cleared up. She left. I continued typing, feeling frustrated. But, she came back again and now with...a friend? The same woman and a man I hadn't seen the first two times approached. "I can't believe you would argue with a paying customer," this stranger said to me. "Why didn't you just change it when she asked?" "I did. She has two copies, look," I replied and pointed to the two poems in her hand. The woman began arguing with me again, "I think you've had too much to drink," I interrupted her. I began to raise my voice and lose my patience, "you are literally arguing with a guy at a typewriter. You are being ridiculous. Just leave. Go, go, go!" They walked away, acting as if I somehow did her a disservice. I could not relax after than and packed up to leave soon later. The contrast between how I was feeling and the beautiful flower arch behind me was stark. Can't they understand the value in what I am providing? It is not meant to be f@#$&*g sterile-looking. I make the poems very attractive and I do not sell work that has egregious errors. If the typing looks ugly, I fix it, using my own discernment.
They can't all be bad--usually they're not.
I wrote once with Artists & Fleas at their Williamsburg market. The day was stormy, in the dead of winter, and all vendors were hung in suspense refreshing our email inboxes to see if the market day would be called off or not. The market is a two-day affair and the day before had been called off due to a blizzard. But today it was on.
Pictured above: My old cart with my setup materials outside of my car on the way to the event. The wheels got destroyed that day from the snow; I had to rip off the rubber layer from around the plastic.
I remember stopping by a Starbucks Reserve before setting up for the market (which inspired a poem I wrote and published in SOUP CAN Magazine, inspired by the powerful flush of the toilet there, but became a political message about gentrification in the sense of being swallowed).
I run chronically early for events, especially new ones, so I had some time to get a coffee and use the restroom (except for one time I was late to a high-stakes gig, which maybe one day I will have the gonads to write about--mortifying. Everything else went super though!)
A couple visiting from LA stopped by for a poem. I wrote the woman a poem about her Midas wallet getting lost in the subway. It was green. The gentleman wanted to email me for a very specific and out-of-the-ordinary commission. I was to type an 8.5"x11" page, most of it being computer code, and the top half suggesting the image produced by the code. The images was an early-computer word-processor-looking block-letter thing. It said "Spring". This looked so cool and I was thrilled to work on a new challenge. Being able to find the line of convergence where modern technology and obsolete technology meet is a lot of fun for me.
Pictured above: The final commission which was framed and mailed out.
The way I approached this was at first experimental, trying to get everything lined up right, toying with the cursor on the document and the carriage on the typewriter. I must have written 10 copies before getting it right. There are also little messages embedded in it from the commissioner to the friend he commissioned it for. (P.S. -- Someone please send me more commissions like this.)
So, what about weird requests? This job has certainly solidified my belief in just how odd each of us is in our own way. But wait for this request, very left-field.
A quick aside for an important plug: On November 14th, I am hosting a QWERT Poetry Fundraiser and Open Mic. This is a ticketed event listed on the Events page. Please read the ticket options carefully! The dress code is dress like a poet! On my Instagram page, @livetypewriterpoet, you can find some attire ideas on a recent post. Six typewriters will be setup with scrolls, and the prompts will invite you to add your own work. One scroll will be selected to be read over the mic. If you have appreciated my typewriter art pages, those will be for sale during the fundraiser, too. And of course, there is an open mic! Read the description under the event for more details. I will also debut a short typewriter written portrait performance during the open mic to showcase my service at special events. This will be my first fundraiser and I am beyond grateful and excited to organize this and welcome you there. If you have further questions about it, find me at my Contact page.
Also, since we are entering the holiday season, I am still available for holiday parties. This is my main source of income, and I appreciate your support of my offerings. See my Testimonials page to read what people are saying. You may view my Booking page or contact me at my Contact page for inquires. Back to the blog post!
Once, while writing at one of House of Yes's block parties, a woman came by my tent with two other people, presumably her children. "Can you write about anything?" she asked, chipper. "Anything," I confirmed. "Write about the FDA."
"Okay," I replied, unsure what she was expecting. "At what angle?" I inquired. I write as a medium, I don't assume anyone's position on things. That being said, there are some concepts or positions that I will turn away, which I will get to after this. "Well, isn't it because of the FDA that when you buy things you know they are what they say they are? Isn't it because of the FDA that consumers like yourself know they are safe?" So, she clearly worked for the FDA. I did not agree, but I was going to sculpt some words anyways. "Got it," I replied. "So," she added, "the FDA and Regulation". I wrote her a poem. She seemed to love it.
This reminded me of a request I got long ago requested by a few bros: "Write about a girl on her knees." When they expanded a little more on the topic, they wanted something written about a blowjob in a bathroom stall. It was an exceptionally classy request. I decided to write from the woman's perspective, dreading the sexual engagement with these men. They replied, "this isn't exactly what I was expecting", but then tipped me well. [This interaction made it into my friend's series Queer & Down. You can view it on IMDb here. The poem featured is not the original, just inspired by it.]
Now, this is not from one interaction in particular but happens all the time at events when I am positioned near the entrance. I generally request to be setup near the entrance as it guarantees more foot traffic. People see me at my little table and ask, "do we need tickets?" Do we need wristbands? Can I buy tickets here? Where are the_______?" And I reply, "No, I am a vendor. I'm writing poetry." And then they feel bad. A typewriter, though? For a ticket-stand?
You never know who you will meet.
When I first began QWERT Poetry popups, I often went to Union Square Park. One time, a lushy man was stalking my stand as at the time I used a glass jar for tips. He attempted to stick his hand in and steal them a couple of times. I scolded him, intending to make a scene so others would see what he is up to, thereby gathering the public's support. I assume a territorial attitude when setup, especially during outdoor popups.
"You know who that is, right?" I hear a voice from behind my chair ask me. A man in his thirties wearing glasses appeared at my side, looking at me. "No," I replied; I had no idea. Don't we think of the homeless population as some aggregate: people without homes=people without identities? What a sad mistake. "That is [name I forget]. He was a famous boxer. Now he is a drunk. After his career ended, he really went downhill." I had not recognized the name he used and do not recall it now; but it seemed the man knew what he was talking about. He mentioned several of the boxer's accolades. With all the time I have spent in a position of service smack-dab in the middle of public spaces, I have been opened up to meet a lot of people I would have never in a million years meet in a 9-5 (maybe that will be another post because, gosh, writing about this is fun!).
Choosing to pursue street art means that I share space with people without homes. While we fall into different camps, I am of the opinion that it is more their space than mine. Sometimes though, the behavior is too mischievous and I need to set up elsewhere.
I will continue to set up on the street with my seductive eye contact to reel you in. I hope to write you a poem someday. I don't like writing about only sunsets and dogs, and I think people don't like only reading about these themes. When someone surprises me and says, "write an apology from Scarface to a loved one", "write a farewell to my toddler sucking her left thumb", or "write about my friend who thinks ketchup is for babies and doesn't use condiments", I am delighted. I will still write about your dogs, though, just think about something that makes them special that people don't know (I've met many Henrys and many Lolas...Tell me about YOUR pet. I've written for many Julias upon their husband's request--Tell me about YOUR wife. I know depression too, but how does it feel to YOU? I am everybody's poet). Yes, reveal those mysteries. Come to me to celebrate or to get that weight off your chest--we are strangers, but oh so connected.
If you enjoy my poetry, consider subscribing to get a Monthly Book of Poems mailed to your door--an original hand-bound book of 10 poems, each written on the unique monthly theme.