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  • Writer's pictureShana Ritter

poetry on demand

September brings a new beginning, the start of a new year, my own birthday near to the high holidays, days when the gates swing open, and the book of life is ready to be written in, again.

It is also 4th Street Fair of the Arts & Crafts in my hometown of Bloomington and the Spoken Word Stage and Poetry on Demand. Tony sets up manual typewriters and perfectly squared 5 x 8 pieces of paper and away we go. People come up and order a poem, they might share a word, a favorite animal, a color, name. I give myself five minutes to catch a thought or phrase, an image or maybe even a line. Then type it out as fast as I can.

Little kids come and stare at the machines, their parents explaining the ancient typewriter, the way fingers hit keys and the keys are stained with ink and the striking of the raised letter on the key leaves its mark on the paper.

Some people like you to read the poem to them, others prefer to read it to you, They come with a phrase and leave with a poem. A wisp imprinted in indelible ink. The intangible made tangible, ready to turn to air again.

Two young sisters, Lia,  2 and Claire 4, asked me for poems, well their mom asked me at their request. They were too shy.  Lia showed me her dress, sky blue and filled with birds in flight. Her mom explained birds were her favorite thing, along with swinging as high as she could so she could be in flight. When I asked Claire what she loved she smiled a bit of a smile, unzipped her sweatshirt to reveal a ballerina in motion. Two young girls who each flew in their own way. Lia and Claire left holding their poems close.

It was so much fun to write them. Write me about San Francisco, a poem for my baby whose name is James and loves to spin barefoot in the rain, a poem about the way the weather changes, one for my friend.

I look up to grab an image, maybe a line, then type. I pull the page from the typewriter, sign my name and give it away. I can never remember any of the poems but the people that asked for them, the delight in writing and giving them, that is what remains.

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