This article appears in July/August 2015 The Encounter.
You may have seen Britny Cordera Doane sitting with her typewriter on Howard Street in the Old Market. The “Old Market Poet” is a common sight, typing up poems on commission.
“I’ve always been interested in doing something with the community in the Old Market, like the musicians do,” she says. “It’s really fun going out there and meeting different people and running into people I know already.”
“Interested” might be the key word here, because the 21-year-old Cordera certainly has many interests. Cordera has been a street poet for almost three years, since she graduated from high school in 2012. You can count on her being in the Old Market most days, weather permitting; barring days when she has school (she’s a full-time student at UNO, studying creative writing and religious studies).
By no means, though, does her interest in poetry begin and end with her work on Howard Street. Cordera considers poetry to be her calling and published her first book of verse and prose, Wingmakers, this past February with Pinyon Publishing.
“Being able to type at the typewriter and get poems written, even if people aren’t coming up, is also a great gift,” she says. “There are some nights where I write two or three poems that aren’t for other people.”
She writes daily and produces at least a couple of new works a week. (I can tell you from personal experience, dear reader, that’s a demanding output.)
“It’s important to write a lot and to write every day in order to get better, in order to hone your abilities,” she says.
When it comes to that honing process, Cordera has a long list of qualities she would like for her poems to have. In addition to being vivid and free of cliché, she wants her poetry to have musicality.
“I see music and poetry as being one and the same,” she says. “The thing with poetry is that if it doesn’t sound right, I’m not going to use it in my poem.”
Indeed, music was how Cordera became interested in street poetry in the first place. In addition to writing, she plays the violin, and it was her violin teacher who suggested she write poems in the Old Market. Beyond being musical, Cordera believes the poem should be deep and weighty.
“I like a poem that says something, that has deeper undertones to it,” she says. “I’m trying to connect a web of themes and ideals of the world. I’m trying to connect things that seem unconnected already, but are actually thoroughly connected.”
More than anything else, perhaps, the idea of a web tying together a large variety of interests sums up Cordera’s aesthetic. Her other affinities include history and mythology. Wingmakers itself is heavily influenced by ancient mythology, as well as the bird constellations.
As if all that weren’t enough, Cordera plans to pursue a master’s in either religious studies or classics after she graduates. She intends to write more poems and books. She’s also learning Latin and Greek and hopes to work as a translator.
You may be wondering at this point how she gets it all done.
“I just do it,” she says with a smile.