Instant Poems

What’s an instant poem?

It’s me, a typewriter, and a sign that says “FREE POEMS!”

Someone gives me a topic (“Cheese, please…”), then in a few minutes I give them a gift — a poem created then & there on my 1928 (still working!) Remington.

Since 2013 I’ve written over 10,000 instant poems at events all over the world. Many were with Typewriter Rodeo, and a lot were on my own.

People often respond with smiles, laughter, even hugs and high-fives. Sometimes they’ll wipe away a tear and say, “Thank you.”  And for each poem, I give the same response: “Thank you, for letting me write it.”

I’ve been lucky enough to write poems from Maine to Mexico, Seattle to San Antonio, for celebrities and big-city mayors, kids age 5 to 95, at fancy parties and farmers markets — and everything in between.

While I never see most of my instant poems again, a handful find their way back via social media or email. I’ve learned some are tacked to bedroom walls for inspiration; tucked in a jacket pocket at a funeral for solace; kept in a car as a road trip companion.

I love the idea that thousands of those poems are scattered all over the world, existing in people’s lives long after I’ve given them away.

Below are a couple of my recent favorites.

GUESS WHAT?

At the Farmers Market in West Seattle, Washington, two couples were near my table. A guy from couple #1 leaned in and whispered to me: “Our friends don’t know we’re pregnant; can you write a poem to tell them?” The best part was watching the other couple read the poem and yell, “No way!” Later, the couple posted this photo taken right after they’d all read the poem:

“This was really incredible. And the poem was perfect – they wound up using it as their birth announcement on Facebook later in the day.” —James Frasca, poem requester

LETTING GO

This was at a wonderful independent bookstore in Dallas, TX, called Interabang books. A woman walked up and simply said: “Can I have a poem about letting go?”

ZOMBIES & MUSIC

At the Antiquarian Book Fair in Washington, D.C., an elementary school boy came up to the table and asked for a poem on “zombies and music!” Of course!