Andrea Becker will provide "Insta-poems" throughout the summer in Lanesboro during the Lanesboro farmers markets and special events, including Rhubarb Fest on June 7. BRETTA GRABAU/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
Andrea Becker will provide "Insta-poems" throughout the summer in Lanesboro during the Lanesboro farmers markets and special events, including Rhubarb Fest on June 7. BRETTA GRABAU/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
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How many people want a poem written about a special someone or a special event in their lives? Some may write the poems themselves and others may need to ask someone else to write them. Depending on the details, these poetic works of art may take quite a bit of time.

An area artist is actually providing another option to Lanesboro area residents and visitors. It may not be exactly what people think about when they hear "poems," but it has a very interesting twist.

This summer, the Lanesboro Arts Center is sponsoring Andrea Becker from Decorah, to come to the community for special events and farmers markets to provide her specialty, "Insta-poems."

Insta-poems are poems written on demand for anyone who asks. Becker began writing poems last summer in a booth at a farmers' market with a little pad of paper. When a person approached her and asked for a poem, within five or 10 minutes, the poem was written.

She got the idea for her craft after seeing a man in Boulder, Colo., offer a similar product.

"I was visiting some friends in Boulder and I saw a guy sitting there offering 'poems while you wait,'" she said. "Another thing that influenced me to write like this is a scene from the movie 'Before Sunrise.' The main characters are hanging out in Vienna and there is a man at the dock. He offers to write a poem for them right there. It was a romantic idea."

A few years ago, a friend held some journaling workshops that Becker loved to attend. The goal was to utilize the imagination and write prose describing creatures that do not exist or telling about something that was lost - all in 10 minutes. Once the writing phase was over, each person told the others about what they had written.

"I was excited to share my stuff. I would write page after page until my hand cramped and then tell the others about what I wrote. And what I write is funny and whimsical material," Becker related.

Though she has only been writing "Insta-poems" since last year, Becker has already widened her influence from just Decorah. But interestingly, she does not do all that much advertising yet.

"The Art Haus in Decorah holds Poetry Slams every year and I try to make it as much as I can. At one slam last year, one of the directors, Kristin Underwood, introduced me and what I do at the farmers markets. Courtney Bergey was there and got my contact information, sending me an email about coming to Lanesboro," Becker explained.

"I knew it would be a perfect fit for Lanesboro and Lanesboro Arts Center programming," Bergey said. "It fulfills our mission to bring the arts to the daily lives of Lanesboro residents, ties into the agricultural traditions in our region and jumpstarts poetry programming that ties into the Lanesboro Arts Campus campaign. Plus, we can make the artistic process visible and support an independent artist, which are always great."

Bergey serves as the capital campaign assistant director for the Lanesboro Arts Center and knew Becker would be a good fit for the community and its future goals.

Becker's process for writing the poems involves talking to those who stop for a poem and asking them to give her a word or phrase they want to be included or that could serve as a theme.

"I ask for a word or phrase for a prompt," she continued. "Then I tell them to go shopping for five to 10 minutes. It is easier for me to write when they are not there, but I give myself a lot of pressure in that time frame. Still, I am able to have the poem ready for them when they come back."

The writing takes place mostly in her thinking about what the next line is going to be. Most of her editing is done in her head as she types. Becker admits she is not at all fond of editing.

Although she may not know the exact words to describe how a bird sounds, for example, she uses the next closest words she does know and tries to surprise the people.

"But sometimes I just make something up and hope they like it," she commented.

Though she works in the coop at Decorah, Becker plans to do some traveling this summer to Lanesboro and Decorah's farmers markets frequently this summer. She may even go to La Crosse for their farmers market on Fridays. But Lanesboro stands out in her opinion.

When she sets up at farmers markets, Becker has to pay for a booth to set up and write poetry for people. Because of this, she generally has to charge a slight fee for the poems. This, in turn, puts some additional pressure on her to write the poetry.

"Because I have to pay for the booth, I have to charge a little for the poems. I don't really know how much I actually get, but I have written some poems for a few people who don't have money on them and others give me more than I charge, so it balances out," Becker related. "But the thing I love about Lanesboro is that I can write free poetry."

What is so different in Lanesboro, compared to Decorah and La Crosse, is that the Lanesboro Arts Center is sponsoring Becker to come and add to the arts in the area.

"Lanesboro Arts Center has hired Andrea to be our 'Farmer's Market Poet-in-Residence' this summer, so we are paying her an artist stipend to serve our community with fresh, free poetry," stated Bergey.

Because of the sponsorship, Becker can happily supply free poetry.

"Free poetry is good because then I don't feel like I am excluding anyone who doesn't have money and there is less pressure on me because I don't have to write a $3 or $10 poem."

Rather than writing shorthand on a pad of paper or using a laptop to type, Becker uses a more historical and interesting method. She uses a vintage typewriter that is believed to have been made somewhere around the 1940s. The typewriter itself is in phenomenal condition and intrigues the people asking for poems.

"They like to hear the sounds the typewriter makes when I press the keys or the bell rings," Becker explained.

Those individuals who have seen her at the Lanesboro Farmers Market have enjoyed having the opportunity to obtain a free poem on a small piece of lined paper, typed in a style that would have been in fashion many, many years ago.

"The people loved it," Bergey concluded about the experiences of having Becker in Lanesboro. "I also had a great time yelling, 'FREE POETRY!' at passersby."