Spontaneous overflow: Cubs the Poet crafts custom poetry for weddings and events
Anyone who remembers Jesse and Celine’s midnight stroll by the Danube Canal in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise has likely dreamed of an encounter with a street poet ever since, struck with how a flippant word like “milkshake” can turn accident into affect, transforming moment into memory (“Don’t you know me? Don’t you know me by now?”). And although I’ve yet to spot any spontaneous bards on the riverbanks of Baton Rouge, there is one in residency at The Columns Hotel in New Orleans, typing out lines you might have also tasted once before, and at a somewhat unlikely venue: a wedding reception.
Publishing under a pseudonym inspired by his childhood mispronunciation of a Bollywood character’s name, Cubs the Poet landed most notably on the Baton Rouge scene in 2019, when Mayor Sharon Weston Broome anointed him the city’s first Poet Laureate. Known for his quick-rhythmed cantos, Cubs first began writing poetry at 22 as a means to explore feeling and emotion in a way his college psychology classes couldn’t quite offer, eventually memorizing his first poem “Do You Like Poetry?” and reciting it to passersby in Frederick, Maryland.
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“One day a lady came up to me and asked if I would be willing to recite in her shop for pay, so I went in and checked out the shop to see if I liked the space,” says Cubs. “She happened to have a typewriter for sale, so I asked if I could have it as payment. And that’s what propelled me into writing custom poetry for people.”
And what, after all, has managed to stir more poets’ hearts than a promise of everlasting love? That’s where the wedding receptions come in.
The rules are simple. There he sits, at a small wooden table at his manual typewriter, jauntily clad in cap and spectacles, waiting. Inevitably, someone will approach. As is the tradition of other soul-seekers like Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York, Cubs will then prep his writing by asking guests and couples a few questions. Deep questions. Questions, he says, that have accidentally transformed into something like a therapy session for many of his sitters. A handful of minutes later, and Cubs has typed out a spontaneous poem inspired by the tales of these strangers, a one-of-a-kind keepsake that he will later bind by hand—along with other poems from the night—into a book for delivery to the happy couple.
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“You’re not allowed to tell me your name, so the stories have to be specific to yourself or to the bride or the groom or whoever’s getting married,” he says. “Once the book is done, the couple gets to read all the poems, and they get to guess who helped with the poem and learn these stories about their guests and each other that they forgot about, or never thought to share. Maybe they didn’t even know that these were such impactful stories or experiences, and yet people thought to share them. It’s a way to see what’s sacred or soulful about who a person is.”
But Cubs isn’t claiming to have reinvented the artistic wheel. In a world so occupied with quantitative details and material concerns, he simply finds value in the metaphysical beauty of inner life, breaking free of the solitude of writing by finding inspiration in the experiences of fellow humans. In other words, “we’re all poems.”
“I’m not necessarily trying to help people’s mental health with these poems,” he says, “but I am trying to get people to activate their soul, which is a place we don’t tap into on a day-to-day basis. That’s what poetry does for me. It allows my soul to express itself beyond my mind, to realize that there’s a different way to exist, and that you don’t have to categorize or understand everything in life. That’s all okay.”
These days, Cubs can often be found typing out poems at The Columns Hotel in New Orleans as its in-house poetry resident, working on his “Soul Studies” project. To contact Cubs about personalized, spontaneous poetry for your own event, or to learn more about him, visit cubsthepoet.com.
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