It was September 10th, 2011 when I first met the poet Abi Mott on a sidewalk outside Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, Oregon. She was sitting in a folded chair behind a TV-tray-table barely wide enough for her vintage Underwood typewriter. Her hand-made sign read: “Name a Price. Pick a Subject. Get a poem.” Something about this immediate exchange between the poet and her customers grabbed my attention.Intrigued, I waited in line to get my own poem. After I chose my subject and took care of the monetary transaction, Abi began her rhythmic typing, shifting back and forth in her chair with her eyes intently focused on keyboard and paper. There were sounds of the street all around us and, in that moment, I thought—“This could be a film!”
After reading my poem, I talked briefly with Abi. I discovered that she had just been in San Francisco, where she had learned the busking trade from another street poet. Abi was 20 years old at the time and a long way from her hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Her plan was to move on from Portland, couch surf her way across the country and pursue the path of a nomadic artist. While Abi’s choices involved sacrifices in creature comforts, she seemed intent on nurturing authenticity in her life and art.
Three months later, I assembled a small crew and began filming Abi and her supporting cast of characters in Lancaster, New York City and New Orleans. In the spring of 2013, with a rough cut and the luxury of perspective, our crew reunited in San Francisco to capture the missing pieces of Abi’s start as a busker.
In making this film, I came to appreciate certain intersecting themes in Abi’s life and creative work: intuition, collaboration and inspired improvisation. As Abi describes it, her aim is to listen to each customer and get underneath what is said. Her poems often express feelings people have but can’t easily articulate for themselves. I asked some of Abi’s customers to read their highly personalized poems on camera right after they were written. These on-the-street readings evoke the physical context of each poem’s creation as well as its emotional impact.
As much as “A Place of Truth” is a portrait of a remarkably talented young poet, it’s also a quintessential American road movie with its hopeful sense that freedom and transformation are fellow travelers coming along for the ride.
Barrett Rudich, Director
“A Place of Truth”