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Saturday, March 03, 2012

Poems While You Wait

The Work of Poetry in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Poems While You WaitIllustration: Jason Novak

It is ten o’clock on Sunday morning, and sunlight is streaming into the River East Art Center in Chicago, Illinois. Dave Landsberger, Eric Plattner, and I are surrounded by four elementary school girls ordering us to write them poems on the subjects of “cats,” “school,” “chocolate” and “sisters.”

We roll sheets of paper into our two manual typewriters—Smithy and Quiet Deluxe—and set to work. The girls clutch their dolls and hover close as we strike the keys. Not only have they never had anyone write a poem to their specifications before, they have also never seen machines like these; they are all under ten years old, and their timelines consist only of handwriting and then computers. What are these things? How do they work? Why are they so loud? You don’t plug them in?

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As we finish their poems, the four elementary school girls—our first customers—ask us to read the pieces aloud. When we are done, they tell us that they will keep these sheets of paper forever. It occurs to us that, although it may be a commonplace to say that kids are more creative than adults, it’s mostly correct: the girls are immediately into what we are doing, see it as valuable without question, and take pride in having provided us with the various dramatic situations. They find the process magical.

Read it all at the Poetry Foundation

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