April marks National Poetry Month. As we kick off this month, we thought it would be nice to showcase one of Inprint’s favorite programs, the Inprint Poetry Buskers. These poets spread the joy of poetry by writing poems on demand, using typewriters, at festivals and special events throughout the city. The Inprint Poetry Buskers can often be found at Sunday Streets. This past Sunday, they were writing poems on demand at Sunday Streets on Westheimer. Here, Inprint blogger and poetry busker Allyn West talks about poetry busking at Sunday Streets.
Sunday Streets is a hard thing to explain. The City of Houston, through its partnership with Cigna, talks about the initiative as a way to promote health and fitness. Those of us who have been to one, though, know that it’s much more than that. Sure, you’ll see people riding their bikes or jogging or doing parkour in the middle of the street, but you’ll also see organic farmers hawking fresh turnip greens and aspiring rappers peddling demo CDs.
I prefer the latter uses to the former. Besides, you can’t burn enough calories to offset the small-batch ice cream and brisket-slathered curly fries you buy from the food trucks that are parked on the route. Sunday Streets is really about the people you share the city with. The physical barriers of our vehicles and houses are dissolved. It’s a time when you can study the full behavioral range of Homo sapiens. You can bark, “Free poems here!” and other people look only somewhat askance at you. What a blessing.
I like what Mayor Parker said about Sunday Streets to Houston Chronicle reporter Karen Chen: “We just close down the streets and let Houstonians fill in the blanks.” The most recent one, on March 29th along Westheimer, featured such blank-filling activities as a kissing booth and Inprint’s Poetry Buskers. Sam Dinger, B.J. Love, Michele Nereim, and I spent a few hours writing poems on the spot outside El Real Tex-Mex Cafe, the former 1930s movie theater (and Hollywood Video).
From noon to about 3 p.m., we wrote odes to unicorns and paeans to sweat. Mayor Parker herself stopped by, requesting a poem about change. This is what B.J. came up with:
The funny thing about change is that it
never does. Change is always our expectations.
This morning, I woke up and was surprised,
but that’s not surprising. What is is that
a mourning dove sat just outside my window
and sang the best alarm I’ve ever heard. This,
I thought, is how mornings should be. What needs
to change for this? What changes are necessary?
My days are filled with standing on street
corners saying hi to everyone in their cars.
I don’t know why, it just seemed like a good
way to spend the day. But you know all about
that, so let me change that last line to
something about Spring, how happy I am to
see all the budding trees and how those shades
of pink always make me want to start a family.
Michele wrote about “the humble honeybee:”
Whole hoards of honeybees are dying
all around the world
Good! Then they can’t sting us anymore
But not so fast there, son —
Because the trees are now in bloom
with no one to taxi the pollen
pistil to stamen to make that
sweet flower love
and peach pregnancies
cradles of produce at the Kroger’s
And so men stand on ladders
— I swear this is true —
with bitty brushes
pollinating each distinct bloom
because it isn’t until
that small work
that you realize the humble honeybee
has the power to move worlds.
And Sam outsmarted the Houstonian who wanted a smart-ass poem:
Here’s a short video featuring B.J. reciting a poem he wrote for the Montrose District about the neighborhood: