Vendor Profile: Franklin Sterling
Franklin Sterling, 58, is proud of many things. He is proud to be vendor #214 for Street Sense. He is proud of his background as a ’70s protest kid in D.C., opinionated and steadfast. And, above all, he is proud to call himself a modern poet with a love for the classics.
After nearly four years of Street Sense service, Sterling sells his newspapers in D.C. with conviction and loads of energy. A smile doesn’t leave his face easily. Although born in Cocoa Beach, Fla., D.C. is Sterling’s city. He moved to a Maryland suburb when he was 7 years old and has been in the District since he was 16.
Sterling briefly attended classes at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, studying literature and writing. He also spent time at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, practicing meditation, and lived briefly in Alaska and Mississippi. In younger days, he would hitchhike cross country. “I have a notion of what the rest of the country feels like,” he said. Sterling returned to his stomping grounds in D.C. in the ’70s during a time of much social unrest. “I came back to pay my political propriety.”
Now, Sterling sells papers and works on his collections. “I’m working on 200 to 250 poems at a time,” Sterling said. “It’s really my life’s work.” With a flair for the magnificent, he looks to Sumerian, Greek, Roman, medieval English and 18th-century French poetry as inspiration for his numerous projects.
Street Sense has published five of his original pieces. Sterling is not restricted by conventional boundaries; he writes about everything and anything, drawing from personal experience, social issues and the legendary poets from the periods he so admires.
In his attempt to merge classic and modern worlds of creative literature, Sterling’s works are unlike typical 21st-century poetry. He uses dated lexicons, eye rhymes and avoids free verse. With his unique style, Sterling is confident his submissions to Street Sense as a poet are valued.
Sterling’s regular sales spot is just north of Dupont Circle, where he is a familiar face for the neighborhood residents. Sterling works for his respect in the area by showing customers his poems in the paper and welcoming conversation from readers. “If anybody reads the paper and likes my poems a whole lot, I want them to come see me. I’m living that starving artist life and like the discussion.”
After four years of unemployment, Sterling was recently re-hired as an on-call employee by a former employer. He hopes to secure a full-time position sometime soon. “I want a job to put myself back in my own place again,” he said.