Word on the Street
Walking down South St. in Philadelphia on a warm, winter night (yes, a warm, winter night), I saw an attractive young lady seated at a small table with a small, manual typewriter. A blank sheet of white paper was flopping in the old-fashioned carriage and ready to go. Her hand-lettered sign said, “Name a price. Pick a subject. Get a poem!!!”
There was something startling and disarming about that sight. Was it the young person (early 20’s ?) wielding obsolete technology to grant you an instantaneous, tangible sheaf of poetry or was it her high-wire act, putting herself out there as a writer, providing art on demand?
Perhaps there are human dimensions old technology holds that we’re losing in our headlong, digital rush. It occurred to me that she is writing intimate, one-of-a-kind poems. There’s no saving a file on a laptop or iPad. There’s no posting on Facebook for all and sundry to see. You paid for it, it’s yours; it’s a unique (and private) message.
Joseph G. Brin © 2012
“It’s more immediate,” says Abigail Mott of her work on her Underwood 350 typewriter. She started doing poetry readings and then transitioned into writing free verse. She got the idea from a friend in San Francisco who is out there doing the same thing. She knows of some 15 other street type writers. “I was kind of wondering around,” she added. She’s in Philadelphia for a short time then moving on. “I don’t stay in any one city for long.” Denver is next. She was amused to join a row of 3-5 other street type writers clacking away on Frenchman St. in New Orleans earlier this year.
She hopes to compile her best poems and self-publish at some point.
Abigail’s poems are stamped out with those small, inked metal letters, struck into soft, white fields of paper for a unique document. “There’s an edge to it, very little room for mistakes,” Abigail says. She xxx’s out mistakes but tries to make it “as clean as possible.” “It’s harder when I don’t resonate with the subject,” she says, but somehow she always meets her on-the-spot deadlines and has been paid anywhere from $1 to $20 per poem.
Do you love someone but just can’t muster the right words?
Name your price.
There’s a poem for that.
Joseph G. Brin is an architect, fine artist and teacher based in Philadelphia, PA. He is writing a graphic novel on Al Capone to be published on Kindle.
Brin’s fine art rowing poster site: www.brushstrokesrowing.com/gallery
Art and strategic design for a bully-free Philadelphia (“B. Free.”) (http://bfreephiladelphia.wordpress.com).