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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Poem Store Open For Business, In The Open Air



by Cindy Carpien
Poet-for-hire Zach Houston works at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco. Houston says he is paid about $2 to $20 for each poem.
Enlarge Ralph Wiedemeier/NPR Poet-for-hire Zach Houston works at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco. Houston says he is paid about $2 to $20 for each poem.

Zach Houston runs his Poem Store (on any given sidewalk) with these items: a manual typewriter, a wooden folding chair, scraps of paper, and a white poster board that reads: "POEMS — Your Topic, Your Price."

Houston usually gets from $2 to $20 for a poem, he says. He's received a $100 bill more than once. The Oakland, Calif., resident has been composing spontaneous street poems in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2005. Five years ago, it became his main source of income.

"I quit my last conventional job on April Fools' Day, 2007," says Houston, 29. "They didn't believe me, because I said I was going to write poems, on the street, with a typewriter — for money." It was no April Fools' joke.

On most Saturdays, you can find Houston at San Francisco's Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Passersby eye his sign and watch intently as Houston types away on his Swiss-made, green 1968 Hermes Rocket.
"Straight out of Switzerland, man," Houston says. "And it's my purse full of language. I love it."


Click here to listen to or read the rest of the story from National Public Radio.

2 comments:

paul campita said...

this a true nature of an artist,passion is priceless. As a musician i don't care about the money all i care about is being heard.

Anonymous said...

what a way to be self sufficent. and follow a passion for writing wonder what the true reason for the career change.?

sara phoenix