News Column

Writing poetry and sharing 'truth'

June 13, 2014

By Daniel Hartill, Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine

June 13--LEWISTON -- Abi Mott sat calmly and typed, as if a guy wasn't sitting atop a throne 6 feet away and heckling passers-by on the Colisee floor.

"Look at her," filmmaker Barrett Rudich said. In an aisle of the Androscoggin Business to Business Trade Show, Mott composed poetry.

The 23-year-old woman from Lancaster, Pa., sat in a folding chair behind a TV tray. On it sat a stack of blank white paper and a manual Remington typewriter.

Neither the steady stream of trade show participants strolling past nor the silliness behind her -- as comedian-filmmaker Michael Miclon sold tickets to this weekend's Emerge Film Festival -- seemed to disturb her.

"She gets in a zone," said Rudich, who first met Mott on a sidewalk in Portland, Ore. "I don't know how she does it."

Mott is a poet busker.

Like the drummers, dancers and guitarists who sometimes appear on city streets and perform for spare change and singles, Mott creates verse.

"Pick a subject," read the sign at her feet Thursday. "Get a poem."

It just works, she said. Folks give her a subject and she writes. The results are short poems that are a combination of her own ideas and the man or woman with the $5 or $10 commission.

"Anywhere where there's art and culture, it's accepted," she said.

She's worked on sidewalks on the East and West coasts and parts in between. And she, like Miclon, is also on the big screen.

After meeting her in the fall of 2011, Rudich spent several weeks following Mott with a film crew. The result is a kind of road documentary that will be screened Saturday afternoon at the Emerge Film Festival.

The movie is called "A Place of Truth." Rudich chronicled the young woman's stops at her hometown and in Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Orleans. He watched her work while surrounded by street performers in the French Quarter and on cold evenings in New York City.

Rudich said he knew instantly when they met that a movie could be built around Mott.

He'd never heard the term "busking" and had never seen anyone write on the sidewalk.

"Something went up on the back of my neck," Rudich said. "I just knew."

At the time, she'd only been doing the work for a month.

Mott was 20, then. She'd broken up with a boyfriend in Lancaster and had accompanied her yoga instructor to New Mexico. From there, she got a ride to San Francisco and wound up on the iconic corner of Haight and Ashbury streets.

A poet busker, Lynn Gentry, was there.

She asked him for a poem about survival.

Gentry's message emboldened her. And she liked the freedom of his work. He mentored her and gave her a typewriter. Soon, she was traveling and writing.

For a while, the poems all had hints of her boyfriend.

"I tried to work my heartbreak into every one," she said. Eventually, she relaxed and let the words come.

"My vocation / allows the heart / to guide the feet / wherever they desire / to meet/ different versions / of the human language --" Mott wrote in a March 2014 poem titled "Travel."

She doesn't know how many poems she's written or what might be the strangest subject request she's heard.

Her toughest: "Kelly Clarkson."

She didn't know what to write about the "American Idol" winner, she said.

For now, she has no grand plans or schemes, she said. She makes enough money to get by.

"It covers the needs that I have," she said.

"A Place of Truth" will be screened at 2 p.m. Saturday at The Public Theatre. A question-and-answer session is to follow.

General viewing passes are still available for the first annual Emerge Film Festival, beginning Friday night with the "Beer & Fear" screenings of horror movies "The Hanover House" and "Natal" at the Franco Center.

The festival will continue Saturday with almost 40 more films in six Lewiston-Auburn locations, at the Franco Center's upstairs performance hall, its downstairs heritage hall, The Public Theatre, Free Grace Presbyterian Church and the Lewiston and Auburn public libraries.

All may be admitted with the general viewing pass, which is $15 to the public and free to all Maine high school and college students with a current ID.

The festival concludes with the sold-out first public screening of Michael Miclon's "Richard?3;" at the Franco Center.

People may purchase tickets at all venues and online at The website has a full schedule of all films.


(c)2014 the Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)

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Source: Sun Journal (Lewiston, ME)

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