the poetry business

On the street outside the metro, a man offered to sell me a poem for a dollar. Before I started haggling about the price, I asked to read the poem.

It’s the middle of the day.
My Drive to be Successful
Is in Full Gear.
You have Been on My Mind,
All Day Long.

That’s just the first stanza. The poem had five stanzas, with a total of 23 lines. So it cost a bit over four cents a line.

The poem was a copy of words hand-written on a lined, legal-sized pad. Signed and dated 9/1/07, a print of an original.

I got to thinking that poetry is a tough way to make money. The seller looked like a middle-aged homeless man.

I told him I liked his choice of the word “flowchart.” “It’s about feelings,” he said. “I haven’t heard that word in a long time,” I said.

“Oh more…. / Oh more….” was good, too. “Thank you,” he said.

I told him I thought he could make more money at another job, like working in McDonald’s. He said Carl Sandberg made money selling poems on the street.

I gave him five dollars and asked, “So why did you write this poem?” He said that he sees business executives going down into the metro in the morning and coming up late at night. He wrote the poem from the perspective of a young executive.

I asked him if I could take his picture and post it on my blog. He said no, no, no pictures, and seemed frightened.

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