On a recent visit to St. Louis from New Orleans, my daughter Emily and her friend Henry decided to set up shop on the street selling poetry. Hard sell? In this economy? Actually, they did pretty well and had a lot of fun, too! Their first task was to procure manual ribbon typewriters; something of course that was the equivalent of them attempting to drive a Model T. Other supplies included an oriental rug, a card table, and a pharmacy lamp, in order to set up a nice ambiance.
The idea was to offer a personalized poem on commission. They hit a few hot spots around town, enjoying what seemed to be, at least for St. Louis, a novel form of street entertainment. People were both perplexed and pleased. Each morning I was regaled with amazing stories of the previous night's adventures by Emily. I wanted to see them in action, so a few nights into their joint venture, I cruised down the street where they said they would be. There they were, like a little oasis of culture, a mirage of civility rising from the sidewalk on a steamy summer night.
I lurked in the shadows for a few minutes to watch them interacting with the public. Then I observed that there seemed to be a problem Perhaps mother's intuition had kicked in; they had just encountered a technical glitch that had them both stupefied: Emily's typewriter ribbon had run to the end of the spool. It wasn't a matter of unplugging or rebooting. Henry beseeched me: "Please, Ms. Flanders, reach into the recesses of your mind. Surely you can remember how to fix this!"
Henry and Emily
And just like how you never forget how to ride a bike, I pushed a little silver button with my left thumb and made a twirly motion on the reel with my right index finger. Problem solved! They were so impressed with my technical prowess and grateful for me salvaging what would have been an otherwise disappointing evening. On their third night of plying their poetry, writer Kavita Kumar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch interviewed them for a wonderful article the following week:
Most recently, they were featured in a blog by Nicki Dwyer: http://nickidwyer.typepad.com/ (7/12/11 the street poet).
Taking their talent to the street, their old English teachers should be proud of them!