Portland's 'Typewriter Troubadour' has a way with words

Old-fashioned poet is modern-day troubadour

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland's Jeremy M. Brownlowe calls himself the Typewriter Troubadour.

Like the French troubadours who composed poetry and sang at court in the Middle Ages, Brownlowe entertains with his gift for words.

His court is the streets of Portland. His muse; curious passersby.

His instrument is a 1958 Smith Corona Galaxy typewriter.

"In medieval times, there were these poets who would go into the public square and they would perform poems and music, mostly about love," said Brownlowe. "I've probably written 2,000 poems in the past year."

For a donation of the customer's choice, he'll write a custom poem on any subject they choose.

On a summer afternoon, Brownlowe set up for the day on a cement island across from Powell's Bookstore Crowds lined up to give the Typewriter Troubadour their word.

"How about love?" One onlooker asked.

Brownlowe thought for a moment and then with a clickety clack of the keys, he created a poem about love in mere minutes.

Brownlowe read the poem aloud, "Love. The tidal wave that carries us into oblivion," he began.

"That's wonderful. I want to frame it," said the satisfied customer.

"Everyone has a story to tell. I am merely the translator of their feelings and their moments onto paper," said the Troubadour.

At Last Thursday on Alberta Street, the scene is more like New Orleans. A parade with people wearing beads, walking on stilts, beating drums passed by the Typewriter Troubadour's post.

Revelers stopped to crowd around Brownlowe to admire his rapid pace lyrical creations. Many lined up for their own custom poem.

"Life after college," one woman chimed in. "How about that?"

"I really want to connect with the person and give them something that would inspire them in life," said Brownlowe.

Back outside Powell's, a visitor from Hong Kong had a special request for her son when she goes home. She wanted a poem about what she calls her son's iPhone addiction. Brownlowe happily accepted the challenge, writing her specialized poem in five minutes. 

" How ironic we seem to be more connected than ever with a single click but further away from the people who are literally within our reach."

"I think he's going to love it. It's the best purchase I've made today," the mom told Brownlowe.

One woman tried to stump the Troubadour asking him to write about himself.

With the tables turned, Brownlowe paused.

"Now, I know how awkward this can be to look into yourself."

His fingers flew over the typewriter keys creating a poem about the Troubadour.

"And so I hit the streets to meet people who live on the outside intrigued by their feelings and stories so I may have a reprieve from deciphering my own."

While centuries have passed since the first troubadours spun their tales of courtly love, the Typewriter Troubadour taps into the timeless connection between words and the human heart.

Brownlowe recently gave up his hourly day job and is writing poetry full-time. He hopes one day to write a book including his Typewriter Troubadour poems and adventures.

He can be found most days on the island across from Powell's Bookstore on Burnside Street in Portland.


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