For more than 20 years, reporters around the world have been receiving poems from a Provo man who reads their work and has something to say.
“It’s an obsession for me,” Tim Torkildson said. “Whenever I read something interesting I just have to respond to it in verse.”
Sometimes sent electronically, other times in the mail, poems range in length but are always witty and always rhyme.
He subscribes to at least seven papers — ranging from The New York Times to his hometown paper the Minneapolis Star Tribune — and responds to anything that “tickles” or “outrages” him.
The first poem he remembers sending was back in 1993, a serious poem about the Waco, Texas siege.
Since then the 61-year-old has written thousands.
During an average week, he’ll write and send five poems to various reporters and news outlets. About 90 percent of the time he doesn’t hear back, but the few times he does is what keeps him going.
In January, Rachel Abrams from The New York Times wrote about the curiosity and persistence that eventually led her to interview Torkildson and publish three poems he sent her.
More recently, Torkildson said he received feedback from a reporter in Europe who called him a “genius” and told him she would “treasure” what he had done with her stories.
To hear feedback like that from a professional writer is gratifying, Torkildson said, especially as a college dropout. He likes the friendships it forms, and hopes someday his hobby could lead to a full-time poetry-writing career.
“I miss doing something that makes people happy,” he said.
For a good chunk of his life, Torkildson worked as a clown for the Ringling Brothers. His poetry writing started years ago when he was a young father traveling with the circus. Since his kids were home in Provo, he’d write them poems as a way to stay in touch and let them know he was thinking of them.
After arthritis forced him to leave circus life, Torkildson spent 15 years teaching English in Thailand before finding his way back to Utah Valley.
In July 2014, Torkildson received some press from multiple national news outlets after being let go from his part-time job in Provo for supposedly promoting a “gay agenda” through teaching about homophones.
In between jobs, he’s searching for something that makes him and others happy.
“I’m not made to cause people unhappiness,” he said. “If I’m not entertaining people I’m not happy.”
(From an article by Keri Lunt Stevens in the Provo Daily Herald, Wednesday, March 4. 2015)