Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Free Poems

Last Saturday I convinced Adeet we should do our shopping at the Union Square Greenmarket. The lure of fresh-from-the-orchard apples didn't sway him, but when I suggested we buy mergueza lamb sausage seasoned with pomegranates and ginger from the Catskill Merino farm stand, I immediately had his full cooperation. As we wandered the market, we avoided a group of overly exuberant girls brandishing "Free Hugs" signs. But then another free offer stopped me. 

A very young looking man sat at a vintage Brother Valiant manual typewriter, clack-clacking on his classic QWERTY keyboard. He'd attached a sign offering "Free Poems" under his Valiant, though a nearby mug stuffed with dollar bills suggested donations would be appreciated. I hadn't seen any public typing since our trip to Bombay last fall, and I wanted to investigate.  

A woman standing near me had just expressed interest in a poem, and the poet asked if she had a subject in mind. After some prodding, she shyly admitted that she'd like a poem addressing the beauty she saw in the world that went unnoticed by others. She was reluctant to offer any more details, though she did say she was from Maine and now attended college in the city.

About ten minutes later, the college student from Maine had a poem celebrating unappreciated beauty. The poet read it to her, causing her to blush. She seemed pleased when he handed her the typed page, or perhaps she was relieved to no longer be the center of poetic attention.

Adeet then asked the poet if he would write a poem for Flat Stanley. My six-year-old nephew James had sent us a laminated drawing of Flat Stanley with a letter requesting that we take his "flat friend" on an adventure. We had photographed him in Union Square, and I thought Stanley (and James) would appreciate a customized poem. The poet winked at me and asked if Adeet knew Stanely wasn't real. He agreed to write about Stanley's quest for adventure after I assured him it didn't need to rhyme. He then began typing what appeared to be nothing. He explained his ribbon didn't work, so he typed on carbon paper, the words invisible to him until he released the paper. I smilingly asked if he did this full-time, but he's a public poet only when the weather's nice. He spends the rest of his time in film school. 

He wanted to know what I do for a living and laughingly brought up my job more than once as he questioned me about punctuation and spelling. However, I resisted any editorial urges when he gave me his poem; its whimsy made up for any orthographic liberties. My nephew might not appreciate it now, but he will someday. And on the next sunny Saturday, I'm going back to Union Square. Even if I don't get another poem, I'll enjoy hearing the clatter of typewriter keys.

click poem to enlarge

Benyomin Spaner: Poet/Typist
Union Square • sunny weekends
photo by Adeet Deshmukh

1 comment:

qsoz said...

Nice, I really want to leave proofreading marks though...