On my way home from the gym the other night, I swiped into the Union Square subway in New York’s Manhattan and came across a sign:
PICK A SUBJECT
GET A POEM
Behind the sign was the poet, with an old-school typewriter.
My coworker and I managed to scrounge up $US7 in cash, and I asked for a poem about “blue.”
I have a thing about blue.
And three or so minutes later, we had this poem:
Of sea breeze
In the light stream of
Springs formed in mind
To seek some healing
Through the cause of time
As idle means
More than the loss
Which one wishes
To be open like the sky
But saturday just happened
The week must go by
The next morning I sent an email to the poet to learn a little more.
His name is Lynn Gentry, and he’s putting together custom poems by the Whole Foods subway entrance at Union Square most nights this winter between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m.
“I wrote in San Francisco for five years,” Gentry explains. “Recently, I traveled across the country, supporting the trip by stopping to write in Seattle, Portland, Reno, Salt Lake City, Cheyenne, Fort Collins, Omaha, Des Moines, Lafayette, and Chicago before arriving in NYC.”
Gentry shares that his writing alone brings in an average of $US700 per week, and he usually writes about 20 poems a day. He says he earns more in the summer, and estimates that most people pay $US5-$US10 per poem. The most he’s ever been given for a single poem is $US122.
Gentry also composes for events and business campaigns, and performs music in a style he calls “electric freak folk.” Within the next month, he’ll start a crowdfunding campaign to finance his second music album, “Sleeper Birth.” You can see his projects and follow his work on his website, LynnGentry.com.
Taking the paper made me realise that I’ve never touched typewriting before — the letters are pressed into the page, so you can feel them on the back of the sheet. While I’ll stick with my computer, I get the appeal. Here’s a picture of the poem (pardon the subway-trip wrinkles):
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