There I was at the bus station in Amsterdam, checking out the times, 10 pm and this homeless poet approaches me. I know he was a homeless poet because he introduced himself but unfortunately I forgot his name, so only the poet bit stuck
It was an original way to beg money, one, he was offering a service, helping you find the right bus and as a bonus reciting a poem from his anthology, for which if you felt generous, you could reward him with a small contribution to the arts i.e. the homeless poet.
I didn’t need his expertise with timetables as my husband had already worked out which bus and stop we needed but this didn’t deter the homeless poet. He was into free verse and after a quick check of his little black book, he recited a poem about souls flying up to the moon. It wasn’t the sort of poetry I’m into – I prefer rhymes, they seem to stick in your head better and the recitation was interrupted when he had to answer his mobile but I felt he deserved a euro because his poem did paint powerful pictures. He wasn’t impressed however and I felt guilty but only for a few minutes when I heard him narrating the same poem to another unsuspecting traveller at an adjacent bus stop.
Talking to strangers can be fruitful especially if they want to reply – it’s more rewarding than eavesdropping on one sided mobile conversations on the train or the bus – you get to see people’s faces, read the expressions in their eyes, and connect, even if it’s only for two minutes and that’s all it takes to make an indelible imprint on your writer’s soul.
Or, if you can’t get away from the computer to linger round bus stops, tune into The Listening Project on BBC Radio 4, for some of the most amazingly conversations you’ll ever hear: humorous, honest and often humbling – prepare for an imprint on your soul.