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Sellwood Street Poet provides on-the-spot verse and prose

by: David F. Ashton, “Street poet” Tristan Bennett writes his next verse – using carbon paper to save a copy of his poem – on his trusty Remington portable.

Seated in the corner of a Southeast Portland outdoor market is a sincere-looking young man, with ample shocks of brown hair framing his face, gazing down with sincere intent at his work.

What is unusual is that he's sitting on a plastic bucket, behind an ancient Remington manual typewriter perched on a plastic crate, pecking out poetry and prose.

'You can call me a 'street poet' or a 'poet for hire',' says Tristan Bennett. 'The first thing you learn doing this, is not to get too attached to words.'

Asked how he got started in such an esoteric profession, Bennett replies, 'I was living in New Orleans, and saw a friend of mine doing it. I sat outside with him for a few nights and watched him.

'I figured, 'I could do this'. And then I started doing it. It's kind of just worked out, since then,' Bennett grins.

'People come up to me and generally tell me about something that's on their mind; something that's important to them. Then, I write something based on that.'

He never presents a 'rate card' for projects, Bennett points out. 'If they like it, they give me a donation, usually between $5 and $20 - but it's really up to them. At a farmers market, I've traded for carrots.'

Since moving to Sellwood in January, Bennett says he's been scouting out places to set up shop. 'I'll be doing farmers markets, Saturday Markets; that kind of thing.'

And, if you don't catch him at a fair or market, Bennett says he's open to 'commissions' - writing for special events, like birthdays and weddings. You can learn more, or contact him, through his website: www.freshpoetry.org .