“I was made to be outside like this,
with wild hair and clothes barely there
to better feel the love of the sky.”
You might hear a line like this if you ever run into Fatima Hirsi on the streets.
You’ll know her when you see her. Hirsi hangs out on Lowest Greenville with a restored vintage typewriter perched on a foldout TV tray.
Hirsi writes poems for passing strangers. She often camps out in Bishop Arts too.
If you ask her for a poem, she’ll ask you to share one truth about yourself, a loved one or a favorite topic. Then, in about seven to 10 minutes, she’ll whip out a personalized poem.
Sometimes her poems are as simple as someone’s love for potatoes. Other times they’re as personal as a man’s grief about not being with his family on Father’s Day.
“There’s no typical response,” she says. “You can never predict what someone will say.”
Hirsi began writing poetry in fourth grade. Although her poetry has evolved many times since then, her love for the written word has been a steady, driving force.
While visiting Austin a few months ago for a poetry festival, Hirsi met a woman named A. R. Rogers who writes poetry on Congress Street in Austin. Hirsi was intrigued, so Rogers let Hirsi use her spot on Congress to try her hand at the trade.
She was too excited to be nervous about the pressure of spinning poems on the spot, Hirsi says.
“Poetry has never really made me nervous,” she explains. “It makes me so happy.”
Hirsi found her own typewriter through a man, Charles Justice, who restores them, and she began practicing street poetry in Dallas.
She has found that most of the interactions happen organically through passersby inquiring about her typewriter, wondering what she’s up to. Then she asks if they would like a poem.
“People are so open and welcoming,” she says. “It creates this space, and they pour their hearts out to me.”
Hirsi doesn’t have a set fee for her poems. She simply asks that people pay as much for the poem as they feel it deserves, and people are usaully very generous, she says.
Her favorite part of the whole business is having the opportunity to meet a wide variety of people and learn a little bit about each of them, she says.
And the hugs. She loves all the hugs.
Find some of Hirsi’s work at
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