I was recently invited by Chase Public and the Kauffman Foundation to participate in “Short Order Poetry,” an on-demand poetry experience. Here’s how it worked: People would cautiously walk up to our table, which was set up outdoors and lined with gorgeous typewriters and stacks of paper. We’d ask, “Would you like a poem?” Some were nervous, but I have learned that most people are generally enthusiastic to have a personalized poem. Then, me and this person would walk around or find a seat somewhere and just talk. I asked questions about their childhood. I asked questions about what they wanted most in that moment. Question after question. After about ten minutes of interviewing, I headed back to my typewriter and whipped up a poem.
What I loved most about this experience was twofold. First, it allowed me to embrace what I had loved most about journalism. Second, it forced me to lose my inhibitions when it came to writing. There were no revisions. No time to let the draft “sit.” If I made a mistake, I kept going. (I’m pretty sure I made up a few words or two. “Magnificance” comes to mind.) The first draft was also the final draft and there was something quite lovely about that.