I met the store’s proprietor, Brian Sonia-Wallace, last night as I waited for the start of a 10:30pm show. He helped me place my order by requesting a theme. Since my brother arrives tomorrow from NYC and he’s staying with me, I offered the theme of “a really messy house.”
And then I stood there and watched the artist work as he hammered out my poem on a 1940s Smith-Corona manual type-writer. People gathering for shows smiled as they walked by, watching us.
“Yes,” I said to them. “This handsome, young man is writing a poem. For me.”
Of course, I intended to pay him. His sign reads, “Pay me what you think it’s worth.” It’s not like I’m anyone’s muse here. This is what it’s come to. Please don’t tell my mom.
A seasoned Poetry Store manager, Sonia-Wallace describes himself as a writer, director, poet, activist…he’s an artist. He creates his poems on demand through a combination of the suggested theme, the person requesting it and his own artistic wheels bridging the gaps.
“I’d love to put together an anthology/ethnography of the people of LA through poems,” he describes the body of work he’s accumulated. “Because what I really do is become a bit of a fortune teller. People are always amazed at what comes out of the poem and relates to them.”
The Poetry Store will be open in the ArtWorks parking lot for the rest of the Fringe. You might catch him (or other Poetry Store guerrillas) throughout LA in unexpected places. He also plans on setting up shop at the upcoming uber-hip annual arts party Fool Fest for the Rogue Artists Ensemble on July 20th.
As I waited for my poem to be written, I listened to that now rare sound of a manual typewriter clicking away and pausing for thought. Watching an artist work. How do I put a price tag on that?
When the poem was done, he read it to me. I was slightly blown away. I was expecting maybe three lines of silliness. But that is not what I got. And it was perfectly laid out on a small rectangle of paper. It was beautiful.
I gave him all the cash I had left. $10. And I love my new poem. Money well spent. Check it out…
About the Author: Amy Tofte is a writer/director who worked way too hard for her SAG card that she stubbornly hangs on to. She has her MFA from CalArts (Writing for Performance) and has seen her work produced all over the country and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She is a founding member of Fierce Backbone in Los Angeles (a theater dedicated to all levels of play development) and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America. Visit Amy at http://amytofte.com