Short Order Poetry

In Short Order Poetry (SOP), a poet works with a member of the public to write a poem. The person chooses the topic for the poem, prompted by broad questions like, "What would you like your poem to be about?" The poet takes notes and asks follow-up questions in a conversation that usually lasts 5-10 minutes.

Then the poet takes those ideas and details and words, combined with the poet's own thoughts, and composes a poem. Poems are printed with manual typewriters, with a carbon copy made for Chase Public. Poems are usually written in 15 minutes.

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They're given the finished poem to them for free. 

Chase Public performs Short Order Poetry at public and private events. For some events, poets are paid for their time. If you are interested in hosting Short Order Poetry, here's information about how to invite us.

A history of Short Order Poetry

Short Order Poetry at Chase Public began in the fall of 2011. A group of friends, including Chase Public founders Mike Fleisch and Brad Salyers, had been meeting for Scotch and Poems, where friends read poems out loud and shared a bit of whiskey. They had also participated in the 48-Hour Film Project, held their own stand-up comedy night, and had written and recorded a song in one night.

In an email to this group, Doug Fields shared two paragraphs from this article in the Charlotte Viewpoint with the note, "Thought this might be an interesting event for Chase Public."

One of the most audacious and wildly popular events in which Cunningham has participated is a monthly Poem Depot, he said. Created by a group he helped found called the Miami Poetry Collective, the Depot brings together Cunningham and up to ten other poets who set up shop along the street during a monthly ‘Art Walk’ street art festival.

“We have folding tables and manual typewriters and for $2 we create poems on the spot for people based upon a notion or idea that they suggest,” Cunningham said. The popularity of the impromptu art form exceeded his wildest expectations, he said.
— P. Scott Cunningham, interviewed by Michael J. Solender

We agreed this was something we should try. Instead of writing poems about a notion or idea, we wanted to make it more personal; we wanted to have a conversation, a deeper engagement with the strangers we would meet.

We also decided that we wanted to give the poems away free, as a gift. It would be a gift for someone to stop and share their stories and experiences with us. Writing them a poem seemed like a good exchange.

In early October, 2011, we gave it a first try. Writing poems were Mike Fleisch, Nathan Swartzendruber, Dan Todd, Brad Salyers, and several others. We set a manual typewriter on a table at the corner of Chase and Hamilton, a few steps away from the entryway to Chase Public, and flagged people down as they passed.

Over a thousand poems later, we still work this way. People stop to see the typewriters, asking what we're doing. We exchange their stories for a poem. It's become part of Chase Public's DNA.