London, UK: Benjamin Aleshire is a traveling poet. He comes from America and is 31 years of age. He set off from New Orleans, his home town, seven years ago to hitchhike around the world and make a living by selling poetry to people who impulsively commission him to do it.
He sets up a portable table and chair in a town square, puts a sign in front of the table which reads “Poet for Hire” together with his twitter account and waits for people to approach him. He says that he writes poems for strangers and people are drawn to him. In London he wore a bright pink jacket, purple corduroy trousers with a floral shirt and dark glasses.
He’s become quite a fixture in the UK recently. After a few days in London, he ended up drinking wine and discussing the history of the peace symbol with Jimmy Page the Led Zepplin guitarist.
He provides a genuine service which he describes as a sort of confession with a fortune-telling aspect and considers himself a modern-day troubadour. His has traveled all over Europe and the US. Benjamin uses an old Olivetti typewriter and composes and types the poem immediately.
His customers pay him what they want to pay him and he said bankers in London have handed him £100 but sometimes he receives nothing. It just depends on the customer. The most that he has taken was £300 for someone’s wedding vows.
And here’s the crunch. Some people want poems for their lovers as presents for a birthday or anniversary but others want a poem for their cat or dog which he refuses. They are lovers too :).
I’d like to challenge that refusal. There’s nothing wrong in writing a poem for your pet cat. Sure, the cat can’t read the poem which is its usual purpose but sometimes the purpose is simply to write it as an expression of one’s love. It’s a bit like composing a poem for a significant other who doesn’t know you. It’s a way of expressing an emotion and it probably helps to do it. Most people nowadays regard their family cat is a member of the family.
If you have a poem written for your cat and it’s good enough you could frame it and put on the mantelpiece as a memento of your experiences in London (or wherever you are on your travels) and an expression of your love for your cat. It would be unusual and quite special provided Benjamin’s a good poet which he appears to be.
One of his poems was for a girl who was contemplating suicide. The intention was to change her mind. He writes his best poems when his customers trust him and share their vulnerability and what’s in their heart. He believes that as he is a stranger to them, they are more likely to share personal thoughts and feelings.
He’s going to be performing at the Edinburgh Festival this year and he’s doing a free reading tomorrow at ‘Typewronger Books’.
My message to Benjamin Aleshire: please write poems for pets. You’ll get more happy customers because they regard their pet cat as a family member and very close companion. A lot of people are closer to their cats and dogs than they are their relatives and even significant others. They deserve a poem.
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