Makers

One Pound Poems by Amber Hsu

Amber Hsu is a Chinese-born, US-raised, UK-based writer, filmmaker, visual artist, and small press publisher.

In 2013, she conceived of and created Tiny Pencil — an independent, artist-led, anthology artzine and press dedicated to the lead arts.

She is also the creator of #OnePoundPoems — a live, verse-making endeavour involving a 1936 Remington Portable typewriter, various willing poets, and strangers.

Amber will be joining us at our Peckham Market on Sunday 9th October at the Bussey Building and you can let us know you are coming on our Facebook Event page. We can’t wait to see what she comes up with inspired by our lovely shoppers!

Here Amber shares with us a bit more about the project and what you can expect from her at the Peckham market…

So I’ve been taking around an old typewriter and typing out poems for a pound.
Here is the gist: I sit there with a typewriter, strangers approach, a pound is exchanged, and a poem gets typed. It’s a basic formula that amounts to: 1 typewriter + £1 pound + 3 or so minutes = 1 poem. I don’t vary from it much.

I’ve been doing this at some small press fairs, and at a pop-up theatre stall. I’m often accompanied by my friend and fellow poet/artist Gareth Brookes who is nothing less than a rockstar for braving weekend hangovers to come and do poems with me. Toting around the typewriter is a new thing, but I’ve been doing spontaneous poetry games for years now.

It’s nerve-wracking to write on-demand and actually have to share what you’ve just written. But putting ridiculous circumstances on it is actually quite liberating. Because there’s no backspace with a typewriter, because you can’t really hesitate when folks are standing over you with more waiting in line, you already know the chances of it being utter crap are incredibly high. So all you can really do is keep going and hope for the best.

But once you accept how unpredictable and imperfect it’s going to be, and let go of it all, you discover that it’s actually quite fun. Most of the time I’m surprising myself as I type the words out. And that’s a large part of the point. I like that it’s an adventure. I like that I have no idea what I’ll be typing about until some stranger whispers some words to me. It’s like being handed a key to an unknown box. You get to open it for a few minutes and see what comes out. And when you’re done and you hand over whatever’s been written, it’s like you get to share a secret little surprise with that total stranger.

Sometimes we write things that are funny or whimsical. Sometimes, things that are sad. Most people at least seem charmed by it all. Some people laugh. Some even seem moved. Some have no reaction at all.

People always seem to be positing whether poetry is dying as an art form, but if this experiment has been proof of anything, it’s that people want more poetry. Seriously, they will literally stand in line and wait for it, we actually had to turn people away at the end of one day.

To be frank, I was surprised people were so taken with it. But there is something irresistibly hypnotic about the sound of an actual typewriter. Plus, I think people liked that they could have a hand and say in the creation of something.