Poetry students experience the thrill of writing poems for the public
November 22, 2016, by Erika Jo Brown
One of Inprint’s most innovative and highly popular programs is the Inprint Poetry Buskers program. A collective of talented local writers and graduate students and alumni from the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, the Inprint Poetry Buskers write free poems on requested themes for attendees at festivals and special events throughout the city. The program demystifies poetry for the public and makes it more accessible, in a joyous and interactive way. Poet, Inprint blogger, and University of Houston Creative Writing Program graduate student Erika Jo Brown helped her undergraduate students appreciate the power of serving as an Inprint Poetry Busker.
A few weeks ago, intrepid students in my Introduction to Creative Writing Poetry class at the University of Houston felt the thrill and caliber of being an Inprint Poetry Busker at the Red Block Bash, coordinated by the Blaffer Student Association. They busily worked while emcees freestyled and drawing students sketched caricatures in the arts district courtyard.
These are their stories:
Mandi Stiles: Busking was single handedly one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever experienced. I had no idea people would be so into commissioned poetry. I think my favorite prompts were to write about “The boy who went to school in Africa” and “A cat who loves mimosas.” I had a little panic attack when I went back to the list and saw “A cat who hates mimosas” as a prompt and thought I had written the wrong thing. Thankfully, someone else was being funny. I think all in all I only got four poems out in the hour. I think I might want to invest in a typewriter, even if I end up going through thousands of pounds of white out.
Clarity Lim: Busking: fast-paced, mechanical motions to mark memories of an art bash. Busking poems for Inprint was an all-new experience for me, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The electric typewriters let me crank out words faster than my multicolored pens could ever write class notes, and my brain was buzzing with implicit metaphors. The best parts were all the parts; there wasn’t a thing I came close to disliking. The constant demand of poems surprised me, but it kept my mind on edge as I jumped from one topic to another. I was surrounded by fellow poets, all busy click-clacking their thoughts away and crossing out poem requests. My favorite moment was when people would read the poems I wrote for them, and tell me how much they loved it with beaming smiles that made me feel like nothing else mattered except writing to make people happy.
Mila Rowdon: I was given a chance to write a poem about a pomeranian on a skateboard in downtown Houston and a poem about Frida Kahlo, in the same half-hour.
A tremendous amount of pressure and fun, and sticky cupcake fingers pounding out poems!
J.S. Roopchand: The experience of tapping out live and timeless prose on Sharks, Hamburgers, Cats, and the Gay Agenda is all the more satisfying and challenging on modern typewriters in front of an audience. A unique opportunity to move from mind to page while the requester hovers over you excitedly reading your musings and judging you as they pop up from the platform letter by letter.
Reneiss Garcia: Starting off the event I was a bit nervous but once I got a poem or two out I began to get comfortable. Participating in this event made me feel much closer to the reader–readers who otherwise may have never laid eyes on my work.
Layla Bispo: Busking poetry was an incredible experience for a young poet such as myself. It was exhilarating to be able to write poems directly to an audience and give them a psychical copy to take home. It was like gifting something very personal to an actual person. It had the intended response to seek every time I write. I hope all my writing affects the reader as much as my busking poems did.