Frankie Abralind's Free Custom Poetry started in 2013 after a visit to New Orleans, Louisiana. He was inspired by a street artist on Frenchmen Street with a sign that said "Poet for Hire." Frankie has written hundreds of poems since then for curious passersby on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., always for free. Each time he goes out to write, he brings an extra typewriter and a friend.
This short film was produced by the talented filmmakers at The Collaborative.
Where can I get a typewriter?
I recommend starting with Craigslist. You can find some nice old portable typewriters there in great working order for around $200 (sometimes less if you're lucky!). Try to get one with case-- that will make it a lot easy to haul around. I also saw a brand new replica for sale in SkyMall recently. It may have plastic parts but I bet it's nice to have a portable manual typewriter that doesn't require so much repair and maintenance.
What's this about a menu?
Creative people often work better with restrictions. I provide a menu at the table to help focus people and manage their expectations. Instead of the open-ended "Write me a poem!" request, they start by choosing a sentiment (love, wonder or anguish), style (Allen Ginsberg, e.e. cummings or Dr. Seuss) and a format (rhyming, free verse or haiku. After that, we have a conversation about the topic for the poem.
Will you write one for me?
Sure! Check out the "Want One?" link at the top of this page.
Can I copy your idea?
Go for it! Here's my advice: 1) Dress up a little. Gentlemen, this means wear a tie. It shows you're trying. 2) Bring a waterbottle and a granola bar. You're going to be on stage, probably in the sun, for a couple of hours. Don't let low blood sugar drag you down. 3) Listen. Sincerely. You might be the first person who's cared about this stranger all day, maybe all week. Ask open-ended questions and make this about them, and you'll get some fantastic material for your poem.
Where can I find you?
I try to get out once or twice a month on weekend afternoons. My favorite spot is on the National Mall just across from the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. I often announce my presence on Twitter: find me at @freecustompoet