VIDEO: Poet and travelers connect to create the poetic at Long Beach Airport

Brian Sonia-Wallace is a poet who has made a career of offering his storytelling expertise as he creates on-the-spot poems for strangers. This Valentine’s Day, the poet was seated at Long Beach Airport where he offered travelers the chance to take home a free, custom love poem for anyone willing to spend a few minutes sharing their stories.

The poems, he says, can be for anyone, including yourself, but of those who encounter the typewriter poet, almost all ask him to write for someone else.

“My wife’s going to love it,” said Curt Zeiszler a software engineer who sat down with the poet before heading home to Seattle.

Sonia-Wallace’s process is simple and based entirely on a brief conversation. He asks participants to share a fond memory, from there the LA-based poet chats with them, building the poem with whatever thoughts, ideas or off-hand quips his guests will share and weaves the information in with his own creativity.

“It’s about the poem, but it’s also about that moment of connection,” Sonia-Wallace said. “It’s about the way that we can share space and time as people and have a record of that.”

Channeling his talent into a commission-based writing service he calls, RENT Poet, the HarperCollins author has shared his on-demand poetry all over the country. He’s written thousands of poems for guests at weddings, festivals, corporate parties, even the Emmy’s. In all the eight years he’s been doing it, the reactions are priceless.

People laugh, some cry. Others, touched by the sentimental prose, often ask for another one.

“I’ll read it to her year, after year, after year,” promised Gloria St. Dennis from Boston. The poem she pocketed was for was her six-month-old granddaughter.

The poetry experience was the first in a series of pop-ups the LGB airport is putting together in hopes of making air travel more enjoyable for people. “Make Flying Fun Again” aims to delight and distract travelers from the stress of flying, harkening back to a time when flying was a more enjoyable, even glamorous experience.

You can find out more about Brian Sonia-Wallace at his website, RENT Poet.

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Cheantay Jensen is an editorial intern who covers art and culture for the Hi-lo section of the Long Beach Post.
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