Sidewalk poet gets personal with passersby

In the latest edition of Idaho Life, Brian Holmes meets a sidewalk wordsmith hoping to pass along his passion for poetry.

If you ever had any doubt that the City of Trees has become an enclave for artists, all you have to do is head downtown on any day of the week.

Of all the sounds you hear in the heart of Boise - the working, the walking, the talking - the tapping of a manual typewriter might be the last you'd expect.

The click and clack is courtesy of Shane Knode, a Seattle poet making a path to Las Vegas, where he will be the best man in a wedding.

"I am just passing through," said Shane. "One day only."

"...every town in America has an avenue, street or corner, unknowingly and secretly, built for poetry busking," Shane read from one of his poems.

To pay his way to Sin City, Shane sat down on Boise's 8th Street, with nothing but a sign and a Sears Citation typewriter.

For a nominal fee and a few minutes of your time, he will literally bang out a few words for you on his "low-tech laptop."

Shane's work and inspiration come from those stouthearted enough to stop and have a conversation with him.

"It just takes curiosity and a little bravery," said Shane. "The distance is the bravery part. We have a conversation and whatever comes out of that conversation generally becomes typed into this poem. So it becomes really personal."

He has other jobs - event manager, construction worker - but those amount to just long days of labor.

"Yeah, actually this pays better," admitted Shane.

He calls poetry busking a proactive form of begging.

"You know, it's a modified version of the Buddhist monk with a bowl," he explained. "Only I have a typewriter."

The fee for his poetry services are highly negotiable.

"Your topic, your price," he quipped. "Sometimes I get half a banana. She offered the whole banana but then she asked if we could share. Of course."

Out here capitalism is more than just an economy of exchange. And in a society where speech is put at a premium, Shane said, listening has greater value.

"When it works right, people get opened up, even for a minute," he said. "You have to listen to people, and they fill you up with the next thing."

Shane plans to spend the rest of September in Las Vegas plying his trade in hopes he can head home to Seattle with enough money to pay his bills in October.

Copyright 2016 KTVB


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