Poeming: a verb for composing poems upon request, live and on-the-spot.
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Custom Poetry On Demand
My name is Bill Keys. I make a living "poeming" at weddings, bar mitvahs, and parties of all sorts. Though I love working weddings and events, I’ve found a lot of magic on the streets of cities all over the US and the UK.
The process is simple: people tell me what they want a poem about, I engage them in conversation, then create them a one-of-a-kind poem on my 1917 Corona typewriter. The entire process takes about ten minutes.
I discovered the joy of poeming in a moment of accident and spontaneity, in autumn of 2001. Since then I’ve composed over 6,000 poems for people of every demographic there is, on every topic you can imagine: from “The journey of a corndog: mouth to anus”, to “Three months ago my daughter was killed in a car crash, two weeks before her twenty first birthday”.
There is no restriction on the request for a topic, because the topic is irrelevant to the origin of the poem. I derive my language out of my body’s sensations and intuitions. Sometimes people will want to stump me and try to come up with something they deem difficult, for instance, “Micheal Jackson’s hemorrhoid”, or “the viscosity of excellent stew”. What they don’t understand is that what makes a poem difficult is an absence of feeling, not the construct of a concept. The more vividly I feel the person and situation, the more quickening the poetic insight . It is the body of the request, not the language of it, that I'm tending to.
The conversation is where the alchemy takes place and out of which the poem appears. The sound of a persons voice, their facial animation, body language, what's going on around us, their stated or implied intention, etc. These are all the factors that will decide the poem, not the mental notions that describe the request. This is why each poem is unique, because no person or situation is the same, though the request maybe a repeat of something I've heard a hundred times.
Poeming has become my love affair with the human heart, in all it’s myriad manifestations. Through the poems, I’ve been privy to thousands of ways of being broken, of being healed, of wanting to die, of being profoundly grateful. Since I was a child I have been plagued with an irredeemable sense of loneliness. The poems, and each of the people who have ever requested one, are my medicine. Each one of my poems is a testimony to the profound beauty and healing available in empathy and connection, one to one, heart to heart.