I love doing Free Poems, but it’s been a while since I’ve felt that rush of adrenaline that I experienced the very first time we did it 3 years ago. Part of that adrenaline rush came from the pressure of writing in front of an audience, as well as writing in very little time. And part of it had to do with putting ourselves out there, to staring eyes, not caring what people thought. But these days, it’s a little different. People who usually go out to festivals have heard about us, and we’re doing it at bigger events. And with practice, we’ve gotten really good at meeting those short deadlines.
So when we did Free Poems on MARTA this past Monday (our first time), it was a way of putting ourselves out there again. Raising the stakes, if you will. And also a way of connecting with our original intended audience–i.e. just regular old folks (though we love the festival-goer demographic too). I never thought I would be the guy who walks into a train and starts yelling “Hello Ladies and Gentlemen…” and it was a little terrifying at first. But I was surprised how quickly it became second nature and actually quite liberating.
Jon and I started at the Five Points station around rush hour (the entire event lasted from 4pm to 6:30pm). We picked a spot on the North platform near the bottom of the escalator, so that people could see us as they were coming down. But it was disconcerting how many people DIDN’T see us–they just looked past us in a blank stare… ah, that just-got-off-work zombie look. I know it well.
At a certain point we took the South train almost to the airport, changing cars at every stop to find new demanders. Though some people didn’t want anything to do with us, many others warmed up to us quickly. Some thanked us profusely, and it was nice to see their faces light up to the idea. I think doing it on the train adds that extra element of surprise, because most people do not expect anything like this on their regular old boring commute.
We then rode North to Lindberg and then back South to Five Points, writing poems the whole time. Some of the topics were strangely synchronistic–we got two different requests for the topic “Pink” back to back, from completely different individuals, and it wasn’t until we compared notes later that we realized this. Also, we had two different requests for “Jesus”. It’s no surprise that we got probably 10+ requests for “Love” and a few for “Freedom”–these are common topics. But “Jesus” and “Pink” are not that common, and to get them back to back from different people certainly qualified as “something in the air”.
These photos are pretty bad. The lighting was not ideal. And many of the poems didn’t get their pictures taken because the demanders were running off to catch their next train. So these are only a few traces of our adventure. Happy New Year! May 2014 be full of free poems.