Busking bard: Author sells custom poetry on the streets of Park Slope

Author Lynn Gentry offers custom-made poems on the streets of Park Slope.
Photo by Colin Mixson

A Kings County author is offering Park Slope residents custom-made poetry covering any topic and written right before their eyes in an act that marries prose — and performance.

“I call it poems on demand,” said author Lynn Gentry, a Sunset Park resident. “It’s performance poetry.”

Gentry, 33, works off a table and typewriter setup on Fifth Avenue near Union Street, where he chats up passersby to gauge their interests, before clacking out a poem on the spot.

This reporter challenged Gentry to a piece on the newspaper business, and, after about 10 minutes of writing, pausing, pondering, and more furious typing, was presented with “Center of the World.”

Within the politics of print

there is a deeper thought at play

as the changing of the guard

pushes fear into the fray

and so what does it mean

to give your mind

Knowing half the story

is human interest

and the other half combines

the necessities to keep

the ship afloat

unaware of how deep the water goes

and so sits the climate

which all are posed today

to live with conviction

or slowly fade to grey

I hope we write about

the civil unrest

and let the people

decide the rest

Gentry was inspired by a performance poet he spotted at the Oregon Country Fair while couch surfing out west more than a decade ago, and he debuted his own act in 2009 on the streets of San Francisco, where he says folks tend to be more esoteric than their New York City counterparts.

“You end up finding people more in that mode of exploring life and journeys and everything else,” he said.

He’s since moved to ply his trade in Brooklyn, where he prefers a Park Slope clientele over customers in other neighbors, like Williamsburg, where he says residents are more interested in the novelty of his act, and less in the craft.

“In Park Slope, people are way more into the idea of doing something creative, or artistic,” said Gentry. “With Williamsburg… some people think about it as the experience, but actually engaging with what’s going on in the moment is not always the case.”

In his career as a custom poetry author, Gentry estimates he’s written some 30,000 original pieces, of which he seldom keeps copies, making nearly every poem unique.

“As far as it goes, it really is one of a kind, If the only person that really ends up having is the person I wrote if for,” he said.

Contract a poet in Park Slope [Fifth Avenue and Union Street] on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m, and on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. ($20 suggested donation).

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at (718) 260-4505, or email cmixson@schnepsmedia.com

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