Risky Business at the Farmer’s Market
Two years ago this month, I walked into the San Rafael farmer’s market with my 20 pound 1967 Smith-Corona typewriter and a white poster board sign I hand lettered: “Free Typewriter Poems.” I’m not sure where I got the chutzpah to try writing on-the-spot poetry for patrons since I had never done anything like it. I’m guessing it was the pure bohemian fantasy of the idea that had me forget what a vulnerable venture I was about to undertake.
Two women saw me struggling to hold my folding table, basket of supplies, typewriter case and bulky sign in my arms. “Ooooh, how cool! Free poems!” They each took a load and helped me set up my station. I offered them a poem as a thank you. “No thanks. We just wanted to help. Good luck!” Then in a snap, my two guardian angels disappeared into the market aisles.
In those next moments, I sat exposed and scared: I’m going to make a fool of myself…What if no one stops at my table?…What if people come and I can’t write poems on demand?…What am I doing here?”
Fortunately, my first poem customer came five minutes later. A six-foot tall, 20’s something blonde fellow who was physically jumping up and down like a little boy while pointing to my sign saying: “I love this! I love this!” I wish I had taken a picture of him and captured his contagious joy. But that was before I took photos of folks posing with their poems. I’m sure the poem I wrote him included something about him being as bouncy as a pogo stick. I wish I could thank him for being the first person to launch me with his enthusiasm.
From that point on, people began to line up for poetry and I wrote for five hours straight. I don’t remember what I wrote, I only know that it flowed out of me and people were very appreciative. They thanked me with various things: oranges, soap, flowers, broccoli and hugs. I went home buzzing with as much energy as if I had chugged a pot of coffee.
Fast forward two years and close to 200 poems later, I am no longer afraid to put myself out there to write on the spot poetry. People often ask me how I get up the courage to do it. My answer is that I get out of the way, put my inner critic down for a nap and trust that the words will flow to my fingertips. I set the intention to give each person a poem that will lift his or her spirit. And, thus my focus is on love, and not on writing perfectly. What’s the worst that could happen? I write a bad, grammatically incorrect or typo-filled poem? There are worse things.
What I’ve discovered is that in giving myself permission to be messy and imperfect—I can more easily tune into the “just right” poem for each person. And so, my typewriter has become a way for me to channel love to anyone who stops by my table. When someone hugs me or tears up after I’ve read their poem—that is my absolute most favorite part. I know then that I’ve hit a heart string and connected with a total stranger through poetry. What a joyful way to spend a Sunday morning.
Allison Fragakis is a personal poet and facilitator of creative writing circles in Marin County, CA. Her retreats blend writing with just about anything from hiking to painting to collaging to horses to music to typewriters and hopefully, one day to surfing. Learn more about her offerings at www.writingallison.com