While at The Block Northway with her father, 12-year-old Noor Khraisat heard the faint sounds of a typewriter. The girl, who is blind, followed the frantic clicking and found a kindred spirit.
Perched in front of an antique Smith Corona, Haley Clancy was busy writing personalized poems for $10 a pop. She asked Noor if she’d like one.
“That’s not a question you expect to hear,” says Noor, who is now 16. “But I related to her. I could tell she was someone who was working towards her dream.”
To her delight, Clancy banged out 12 lines about birds and their friendship took flight.
The writer, who calls her creative business A Poems Purpose, recently self-published her first book of poetry. Clancy spent her 21st birthday at the Greater Pittsburgh Festival of Books, where she presented “A Little Hope” to Billy Porter.
The book is dedicated to Noor, whom Clancy considers her confidant and biggest champion. The tome is available online for $20, or you can pick up a copy Wednesday through Friday mornings when Clancy is stationed in front of Yinzers in the Burgh at 2127 Penn Ave. in the Strip District. You can also find her on Saturdays from 6 a.m. to noon at the Farmers’ Market Cooperative of East Liberty.
This summer, Clancy will trade her pop-up tent for a trailer so she can provide her creative services rain or shine.
On Sunday, June 19, from 6 to 9 p.m., she’ll be at Kingfly Spirits tickling the ivories as well as the typewriter keys — when Clancy is not writing poetry, she’s playing jazz piano.
Born in Alabama, the artist moved to Pittsburgh in 2000 when her dad, Kendrick Clancy, was drafted by the Steelers. At age 8, she started filling notebooks with ideas. By 16, Clancy was selling her typewritten work on sidewalks and at events throughout the city.
Customers can provide a theme or let Clancy take artistic license. After a few minutes, they have a one-of-a-kind keepsake presented on a piece of small, brown paper with her contact information on the back.
She’s typed thousands of verses over the years, ranging from silly rhymes about socks to thoughtful poems about death, grief and loss. Her words elicit a range of emotions from recipients: smiles, laughs and, often, tears. If Clancy sees a person who seems sad, they become her muse — and she’ll give them the poem free of charge. Like other kind hearts around town, she wants to spread joy and positivity through the written word.
Each Monday, Clancy types a new poem and reads it over the phone to Noor. Originally from Jordan, the 10th-grader moved to the city in 2014 to receive ophthalmological care.
Although Noor is visually impaired, she has a clear vision of her friend’s talent. She’s the one who encouraged the poet to publish a book. “Do it for me,” Noor pleaded. That line is now tattooed on Clancy’s wrist in braille.
“Hayley is growing as a person and as a writer,” Noor says. “She addresses things that are hard to talk about. They’re such simple words, but they speak to everybody’s individual experience. Poems make life less of a battle.”