July 14, 2013

Pownal farmer pounds out poems at markets

While others weigh vegetables, Holly Morrison sells fresh-pecked poetry.

By Beth Quimby bquimby@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

CUMBERLAND - At this time of year most growers at the Cumberland Farmers Market are peddling fresh-picked tomatoes, zucchini and green beans.

click image to enlarge

Abigail Kline, 9, of Destin, Fla., at left, watches with other children as organic farmer Holly Morrison of Pownal, loads up the typewriter to create a poem commissioned by the youngster at the Cumberland Farmer’s Market on Saturday.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer


This poem was read at the annual town meeting to honor Rob Wood for his service to the town of North Yarmouth:

Who boldly wrangles garbage by the ton,
And chases down the setting Summer sun,
And would do his best to get the town’s work done?
Who would?
Rob Wood: Selectman Number One.

Who’d split some wood and live well on the land,
And ring a horseshoe in the Fun Day sand?
Who’d run to meetings, pizza-slice in hand?
Who would?
Rob Wood: Leader of the Band.

Who helps the hard-up get their G.E.D.s
And helped us find our way among the weeds?
Who’d make six years blow by just like a breeze?
Who would?
Rob Wood: Much-Esteemed Big Cheese.

Whose resonance would echo through a hall
While serving citizens, both great and small,
A blue and khaki warrior, standing tall?
Who would?
Rob Wood. Who will miss him? All.

– Holly S. Morrison, June 2013

But Holly Morrison of Tir na nOg Farm in Pownal sells fresh-pecked poems.

"Custom poems typed fresh for you -- your choice of topic!" reads a sign when the poet is in.

The poems have been one of the big hits at the market on Saturdays in Cumberland and on Wednesdays in Falmouth. Morrison charges $2 a poem, although tips are appreciated.

She got the idea from a young man who came to work on the farm last summer, fresh from a poetry festival. He set up a typewriter at the market, then decided to go to the beach instead. A poet herself, Morrison took over the typewriter and hasn't looked back since.

She works at a furious pace, turning out a page of verse on her manual Olympia in minutes. She has customers pick a topic, asks a couple of questions, then goes to work.

Ten minutes later she presents her customer with a poem, remarkably free of any typos. She will even read it out loud. Morrison, 42, who grew up on Vashon Island in Washington state's Puget Sound, said she started writing verse as part of her interest in Celtic culture, in which bards play an important role. She can channel Scottish poet Robert Burns' accent on request.

She said children tend to ask for poems about animals or what they are currently seeing or hearing. Recently a little boy who had just visited the Bronx Zoo ordered a poem about the gorilla he saw vomit into its hand.

"I had never written a poem about a gorilla throwing up in his hand before," said Morrison.

Adults tend to want poems about their relationships to other people. Kay Fowler of Spring Book Farm in Cumberland surprised her husband, Greg, with a Morrison poem on their 50th wedding anniversary.

"She got us exactly," said Fowler.

Part of the thrill for some of her younger customers is watching Morrison on the typewriter, the keys clacking and a bell pinging at the end of each line.

"Hey, typewriters are just coming back. I am on the cutting edge," she said.

Morrison was referring to recent reports that the Kremlin has reverted to typewriters in lieu of hackable computers to safeguard Russia's top-secret documents.

Morrison will write longer works to order. Recently the town of North Yarmouth commissioned her to write a poem in tribute to Selectman Rob Wood.

It is a fine art putting a price tag on a poem, said Morrison. She doesn't want to scare people away by charging too much. Two dollars seemed about right, she said.

She said composing her poems is similar to growing food on her organic farm.

"It is about making art accessible, the same impulse as making locally grown food accessible," Morrison said.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:



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