My first encounter with the Poem Store was last summer in a grassy area just outside the main Portland Farmers' Market. Jacqueline Suskin was sitting on a folding chair in the shade wearing a vintage dress, typing away on a vintage typewriter -- clickity click. A handmade sign announced, "Poem Store, Your Subject & Price."
I bought an improvised bit of free verse for my son and his girlfriend. They loved it.
A couple of months went by, then -- a nice surprise -- there she was clickity clicking on the Arcata Plaza. She'd moved to Humboldt.
When I bought a poem for my wife, Jacqueline explained how she got in the Poem Store business: "My friend in Oakland, Zach Houston, does it for a living. He told me I should try. I went with him one day and it was amazing. I've been doing it ever since."
She'd taken her poetry rig -- everything fits on a bicycle -- "all the way up the coast to Seattle," typing verses on all sorts of subjects for all sorts of people. When she's not busy writing custom poems she types letters to friends to keep the clickity clicking (and attract customers).
On the side she engages in another pastime, scouring "flea markets, roadside ditches, junk shops and trash bins" collecting vintage found snapshots. On Friday, July 9, she launches her first book of poetry, The Collection, a collection of 23 poems and the snaps that inspired their creation. For example:
We stole the lemons for the cats
cause we found the tom-tabby's spent body
in Mr. Elmond's poppy bed, bones all white-tipped
and forgotten. Got thick citrus yellow under
our nails juicing the fruit all over that mouser's
old joints and didn't kneel in our suits, price tags
still on for good measure. Dressed up head out,
canned green beans and sweet yams in brown bags,
Sunday shoes as leaving shoes. We stationed
the skull above the ground to protect the kittens
and lady-cats he left behind, a grave marker,
a watchman to remain where we could not
The book launch party for Jacqueline Suskin's *The Collected* is from 6-9 p.m. Friday July 9, at Northtown Books in Arcata, 957 H St. The reading begins at 7 p.m. You can also find the Poem Store most Saturdays at the Farmers' Market on the Arcata Plaza. And you'll find more of her work online at www.cicadabrood.com.
You'll also find the poet at a pair of art installation/dance party events on Saturday and Sunday at The Stormship: 824 L St. (upstairs above the dance studios in the Old Arcata Creamery building). Her Portland colleagues, Mark Warren Jacques and Seeth Neefusfro from Free Life Center are on the road with a piece that's something like a building within a building, all crafted from salvaged materials. The intent of the structure is to "spread ideas that can lead to a more healthy, happy, and creative free life" and to inspire art and music collaboration.
The Saturday, July 10 Free Life Center happening begins at 8:30 p.m. with a potluck and dance party featuring the debut of People Party followed by a DJ set. Phase two, Sunday, July 11, again at 8:30, includes music by The Old Friend Band, The Guiding Water and Stormship house band, Medicine Ball. For more about the Free Life Center tour go to www.freelifecenter.com.