The renovated warehouse that held High Cotton Brewing Company's tap room opening party swirled with crowds. A young woman stood against the back wall, surveying the horde and balancing a sign offering personalized poems. Next to her, hammering away at a green typewriter, sat Adam Maldonado writing a poem just for her.
Maldonado, also known as Adam the Poet, frequents many events around Memphis, armed with his typewriter. He will chat with a potential client for a minute or an hour — however long it takes to get a feel for what the person might want in their poem.
He considers his work a form of therapy — for him and for those he writes for. Some ask for poems about summer or love; others may want words about losing a loved one or a traumatic experience. Maldonado doesn't have a set charge for a personalized poem but asks for a donation.
"The feeling, for me, is to write, to be there and share a space with someone, and create something for them that is as real as it can be," Maldonado said. "Some people will just give me one word or a bunch of words [about] the thing they want me to write about. I have to just let go."
While he doesn't consider public poetry to be a show, Maldonado has a background in acting and spoken word and majored in theater in college. The Memphis native made his way around the country and, eventually, to the West Coast on a quest to find himself. He found his calling for poetry in Las Vegas a couple of years ago, thanks to the support of the creative community there.
Maldonado said he got the idea after a chance encounter in Los Angeles, where he met a woman with a typewriter who was doing something similar to what he does now. Maldonado calls that woman his inspiration.
"I never had really made any money from my poetry before," he said. "I wanted to be a writer since I started doing this in Vegas, and I had no idea how I was supposed to survive off of it. I'm pretty independent. I never wanted to be somebody who says, 'I'm a writer, but my girlfriend pays all of my bills.'"
Maldonado has become a recognizable figure to many and he's become busy. In addition to being hired for private events such as wedding receptions and birthdays, he's also in the process of writing seven books. One, titled The Brewery Book, will be released in late summer. It consists of poems written at the Tennessee Brewery Untapped event this past spring. His second, containing his personal work, will be released this winter. He also plans to expand his website to offer more one-on-one services and Skype sessions.
"Ultimately, the goal of each piece is to move someone to a feeling or create a bond with a piece of art," Maldonado said. "The biggest challenge is overcoming the fear that it's unneeded or invalid. When you're creating art, it's like you're making sense of yourself, and every piece of art is like a journal entry. Now I've opened up the floodgates where everybody's experience is being documented. We're trying to make sense of it all."