Thursday, July 07, 2011

Hungry Poet Project

I was telling a friend today about my hungry poet days. I’ve actually been thinking a lot about this project that I started back in 2003 and wondering if I could find the time to pick it up again…

For those who may not know about my time as the hungry poet, here is something I wrote about it awhile back – which will be continued and expanded on over the next couple blog posts.

“Can you spare a word?”
“Sorry. I don’t have time for that.”
He doesn’t look back as his shiny shoes clap off down the sidewalk. I should’ve known; suits don’t generally have words for begging poets.

A woman is coming toward me, casually well-dressed. She’s walking slowly enough to have time to read my signs – ‘Spare some WORDS?’ ‘Any WORD helps.’
“Can you spare a word?” I ask when she is within earshot. I hold out a little pad of paper and my lucky purple ballpoint pen.
She slows, smiles uncertainly. Her face looks shiny, like a freshly scrubbed gala apple.
“I’m just asking for words,” I say quickly. There is a small window of time to assure people my intentions are pure.
She takes the pad without speaking. ‘Exfoliate’ is written on it she hands it back to me. I’m guessing she’s just come from the little spa around the corner.
I tear off the word and put it in the shoebox beside me. After five months of begging for words, I probably have close to 1000 words in this box.

Of course, most people are confused by what I’m doing.
“You’re just asking for words? Not money?”
“Just words.”
“It says you’re the hungry poet. Does that mean you want food?”
“Hungry for words,” I say.

Some are suspicious. They’re looking for a catch. Panhandlers on the street are good-for-nothing bums.
“I don’t get it,” a lady wrote and walked away before I could explain that I’m building poems using only other people’s words, that I got tired of the solitary writing life and wanted to involve other people in my craft, or that I want people to think twice about those sitting on the street with cardboard signs.

Read more:
Hungry Poet Project II
Hungry Poet III

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