Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Street Poet

Street Poet

A few weeks ago I was taking my lunch break.  I decided to walk over to Whole Foods to get something from their hot food bar.  Whole Foods is about three blocks from where I work.  As I was walking I spotted a young man standing in front of a store.  As I passed he asked me, “Do you like poetry?”  I responded, “I’m totally poetry.”  He said, “Would you like to hear one of my poems?”  “Sure,” I replied.  This sounded good.

He then asked me what topic I would like for my poem?  I hesitated, and he jumped in with a list: nature, work, politics, religion . . .  I said, “God.  I want a poem about God.  I’m a Quaker.”  I added the ‘Quaker’ bit to let him know where I’m coming from.  On the spot he recited:

the strongest force
i can think of is love
and I believe that it’s not
from a heaven above
it resides in each
& all of our hearts
i’m saying that god’s
not separate or apart.
mispelt god
is good within us all
add an ‘o’ to god
& deities fall
seein something beautiful’s
like lookin into a mirror
cause within you is a love
that’s radiantly pure
i once learned, now believe,
that evil has momentum
please embrace all you can
our good that i mention
you can help somebody out
create some righteous art
knowin god’s within
not distant or apart.

Tim Hale

Not bad, not bad at all. 

It turns out Tim is a street poet who has been on his own for some years now.  I’m not sure, but I think he’s in his 30’s.  He handed me a chapbook of his poems with the poem he recited in it.  And I gave him some money in return.

I love running into street poets, but it’s been a long time since I encountered one.  The last time I had a real encounter that included interaction, conversation, and some poems, was Julia Vinograd in Berkeley.  Love her work.  In some ways, Tim and Julia are cut from the same cloth.  Living on the fringes, unconnected with any poetry establishment, lacking MFA credentials or other tokens that get you published in the right journals or invitations to the right conferences.

Tim and Julia have very different styles.  Julia composes free verse, but with a deft touch to her lineation and a distinctive voice that is unmistakable.  Tim writes metrical verse; it appears to me from reading his chapbook that his poetry is strongly influenced by popular song; always a good sign. 

At another level, though, Tim and Julia are birds of a feather.  They both write from their encounters with life and express a point of view which is largely absent from more established poets. 

Here’s one more of Tim Hale’s poems:

The Kinship of Homeless

I slept between boats
Made money off poems
That summer in Seattle
I never was alone
I hung with the homeless
Took care of each other
I was closer to them
Than I am my own brother.
We dumpstered some steaks
Some forty-plus dollars
And fed them to dogs
Who roamed without collars
We gathered and shared
Meals every night
Round fires we’d rambled
‘till dawn brought us light.
There were dreamers and lovers
Addicts and thieves
We share with each other
Our deepest beliefs
About pain from the past
How life had been tainted
Or how life’s just a canvas
Waiting to be painted.
We talked of possibilities
That never really end
How the heart that’s broke the most
Would eventually mend
While some work for power
For gain and for gold
Our possessions were little
But rich was our soul.
Know moments our choices
‘tween love and ‘tween fear
If you open yourself
There’s family near
We weren’t each other’s siblings
Father or mother
Though all of us were family
In Seattle that summer.

I just went over to youtube and found a number of posts about Tim.  If you are interested you can take a look.

So there is poetry everywhere, and good poetry too. 


Julie P. Clark said...

Awesome post--what a great thing! I live in a small, rural area of Virginia so I've never seen a street poet--what a cool idea! Thanks for sharing about Tim!

Jim714 said...

Thanks, Julie. It was kind of awesome!