I spent last weekend in Denver, visiting my sister-in-law and her husband. It was a great, adult-only, getaway, full of all the typical Colorado tourist destinations. We watched a Rockies game, toured the Coors Brewery and wandered through the shop and restaurant filled Union Station. We had a lovely dinner at my in-laws’ house, enjoying good food and good company, without the presence of Midwestern mosquitos. One of my favorite moments of the trip, however, came on the last day of our trip when we visited the historic bookstore: Tattered Cover.
“We are a Denver institution, a community gathering place, and an experience you can't download,” the bookstore owners say of itself. With several locations around the city, they are proud to support indie authors and boast and incredible 400+ author/illustrator/public figure/reading events per year.
As I meandered the wooden-floored store, browsing books on aging shelves, I felt as if I was looking at someone’s personal library, rather than a cleverly curated display meant to entice the money out of my wallet and into the cash register. Entire sections are tucked away in corners or alcoves. In some cases, like the children’s section, a separate room hosts the books, both used and brand new. The arrangement leaves you free to select your book and read the first few pages almost in private.
As much as I enjoyed the store itself, another treasure sat outside. A poet. “Pick a Topic. Get a Poem” his sign declared.
“Hello,” I said. "I’d like a poem about books, please.”
The poet took a small sheet of paper and threaded it into his typewriter. After a moment’s pause he began hunting and pecking the keys. I stood, transfixed as he composed my commissioned art from a folding chair on the sidewalk. He stopped once, stretching out his arms wide, twirling his wrists and wiggling his fingers as if to pluck the perfect words from the hot, city air. Then he went back to the keys, tap-tapping and bar sliding until he slipped the paper from the machine and asked,
“Would you like me to read it to you?”
“Yes, please!” (and I am so glad I did.)
The timbre of his voice, the cadence of the syllables, the bob of his head while his feet remained firmly planted on the ground. The performance itself was a souvenir. We traded cash for poem and then a few questions and answers.
The Roaming Poet has been setting up shop all over the country, working as a full time writer for four years, writing an estimated 10,000 poems a year. Denver, Chicago, New York City, Moab, Vegas. Staying at Airbnb’s, camping in his car, and his favorite, using couchsurfing.com so he can experience a city through the eyes of his local hosts. In addition to street writing, he also can be hired for private parties, including weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, and funerals.
The couple who requested a poem after me said, “Hey man, where’ve you been? We have been wanting a poem for a month!”
“Sorry,” he replied. “I was camping in Yellowstone for a while.”
While he wrote for the couple, a line formed. People snapped pictures and waited for their own slip of a verse. I wanted another poem. Would gladly pay again to watch this writer craft words on the spot. This time I would pay more attention. Ask to video record the reading. Think of some literary question to ask.
But it was time to go. Lunch, and afterward, a flight home, called.
So until next time Roaming Poet, thank you for your words. I hope our paths cross again.
Hey readers, I’m curious. What topic would you have given the Roaming Poet to write about?