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Busking Poetry (This Isn’t as Wonderful as You Think)

by Jeremiah Walton, Guest Writer

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Jeremiah Walton, Poetry Busker

Busking is street performing in hopes of obtaining tips from passing pedestrians. A vast array of musicians, poets, painters, jugglers, tarot card readers, and other acts compose the majority of the busking community. The performers are generally passionate, taking their work to the streets in hopes of snaring passing ears. This is a living for some.

Before reading this article, please note: no one obtains fame through busking. The minuscule amount who have, or will, are rarities of circumstance. Making connections and socializing with others will help you build a career. Busking won’t.

I busk to make an income while traveling. I perform poetry and distribute books for Nostrovia! Poetry, W.I.S.H. Publishing, and Underground Books. I set up a cup a couple feet away from me so it invites others to throw money in, but is close enough for me to prevent thievery. I’ll usually have a cardboard sign with suggested donations for the books.

In the right communities, with the right people, it can bring in a substantial income. Other days, my cup remains empty and passers tell me to get a real job. You will deal with this shit regularly. People peoplin’.

Slam poems, or generally accessible poems, are better received. Your fleeting goal is to attract an audience to throw money into a little cup at your feet, not to perform the Howl of this generation. It’s a business, a really fun and horrible job, especially when this is how you are making a living.

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The Art of Busking

Performing in public streets is vastly different from performing at open mics or slams. Rather than having an audience ready to go, you have to fish for one. Your ocean is of concrete and full of organisms that do not care what you have to say. And, unless you’re busking for fun, you’re not just fishing for people, but for what’s in their wallets (ah, that infectious dollar bill giving Us fishes reason for gills).

In Buffalo, NY, I busked out front of a cafe in Elmwood. One of my poems caught the attention of a man, and, for a couple poems, I had an audience of one. Before leaving, he dropped $20 in the cup and bought a book. In 3 hours, I had a couple dollars short of $60. That’s not bad.

The next day I made ten dollars in two hours, and had to get creative (a euphemism for selling fake flowers to couples).

Location and time are essential. The first day, I was up at 8 a.m., when the cafe was busiest, and had a large audience passing. The line would extend right out of the cafe to where I had posted up at some points. I had people trapped as my audience (cross walks near stop lights work for this to).

The second day, I arrived at 2 p.m.. The cafe was closing, and pedestrian traffic had slowed.

Location also brings up the concept of territory. Buskers habitually have particular locations they prefer. Harvard Square in Boston is plagued by buskers, and many of them do this every day for a living. That gives them reason to be territorial; it’s how they eat, buy their smokes, and consume other pleasures and conveniences.

The best thing to do is be respectful. Don’t post up right next to the man trying to sell jewelry. He’s trying to make a buck too, and you’re stealing attention from his work. There’s a musician on the corner with the most traffic, and a crosswalk and stoplight. Don’t go to the other side of the crosswalk and start screaming poems. The audibility of your whining and his whining will mesh into this gooey noise of empty cups.

Now, onto confidence. Confidence is key. Know your poems. They don’t necessarily have to be memorized, but make eye contact with your audience, and those passing by. Direct your poem at them.

Be loud, be the applicant (poet) of force (poem) upon external objects (people) to cause movement (soul).

Also, if no one is gathering around (per usual), and no one is paying attention (per usual), directly ask people, “Hey! Want to hear a poem?” This direct interaction can either have them brush you off, or have them stay, listen, and potentially donate or attract others’ curiosity. You have nothing to lose except opportunity.

Practice consistently. You will fuck up, as you’re a human. Read at home, read to your friends, read to the mirror, and then read to the streets.

Busking will help with your confidence and performance at open mics and slams, and vice versa. It’ll help you grow, realize the beautiful insignificant you are, and humble you.

Or it’ll boost your ego tenfold and you’ll be a dick.

BIO:  Jeremiah Walton is a traveling poet going across the United States performing at slams and open mics.  He’s 18, was raised in N.H., and manager of Nostrovia! Poetry, W.I.S.H. Publishing, The Traveling Poet, and an editor at UndergroundBooks.  Jeremiah blogs at Gatsby’s Abandoned Children, where most of his chapbooks can be read free.  Jeremiah promotes poetry to the youth, hoping to broaden the community, and promote creating for Self.

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Beards, Zombies, SNES, and David Bowie: The Mind of Jayme Karales

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Disorderly, by Jayme Karales. Before Sunrise Press 2013.

Hello viewers! Since we’re nearing the holidays (a temporary asylum from the plague of day jobs), I thought it was high time to have another post. Today you’re in for a nasty good treat, since Yorick Magazine interviewed Jayme Karales, a young and horrorshow author and host of Shootin’ it with Jayme and Kenney.  I proverbially sat down with him to discuss the existential benefits of writing as well as his debut novel, Disorderly.

1. Tell me about yourself. Jayme Karales is a writer from Boston with a podcast and a cool ass beard. I want to know more!

First off, thank you for recognizing the awesomeness of my facial hair. You’re the first interviewer to do that and I think my beard is very underappreciated. Second, in addition to being a writer and podcaster from Boston, I’m also a cat hoarder, a Tumblr addict, and a passionate hater of all things Wes Anderson.

2. How did you find writing? Or did it find you? Writers always have that story that narrates the triumphs and tribulations of discovering the Golden Fleece of what they want to do for the rest of their lives. What was your quest?

I’ve always been interested in storytelling. If I weren’t a storyteller, I’d probably be a pathological liar. I can remember being 4 years old, sitting in front of one of those old, 30 lb. home-movie camcorders and just rattling off random stories—or telling my mom to write things down on a piece of paper while I drew the crudest fucking Power Ranger drawings you can imagine. So I’ve been interested in writing—in my own way—from the jump.

3. How would you approach a dystopian future that eliminated written forms of communication?

That actually doesn’t sound too bad. I figure I’ll probably square myself away in a cabin in the woods somewhere by the time I’m 50, so I’ll welcome it.

Now, about your stuff:

4. Why did you write Disorderly?

I came across a prompt for a short story anthology that essentially said, ‘write a zombie story that features a protagonist suffering from cancer.’ When I actually got into it, I couldn’t cut it down to 10,000 words so I just kept going and wound up writing my first novel, Disorderly.

When I did get into writing it, the goal became: break the reader’s expectations and deliver something that will push their boundaries. Based off of the reviews, I think I did that.

5. The setting in your work is always heavily emphasized and very real to you. Massachusetts and its communities especially play a part in “Youth” and Disorderly. What drives you to include these locations?

Convenience and character. I know Massachusetts better than I know any other state and I feel like there’s a certain flavor here that you can’t find in, say, Oregon. Go to the right part of Boston and you’ll find a well-dressed Harvard grad standing 10 ft. away from some Dorchester townie calling his buddy a “cawksuckuh.” There is a variety of over-the-top, clashing personalities here and in an unconventional way that’s part of its charm.

6. I absolutely love “SNES” from David Bowie is Dead, your collection of poetry/prosetry/multimedetry. How is fiction different for you than shorter, more lyrical works?

Fiction takes a lot more effort and a lot more care than poetry or prose. Poems are random blurbs that pop into my head. Fiction is a culmination of ideas that I can no longer keep bound to my brain.

7. Are you aware of anticipated obituaries? I typed up “David Bowie is Dead” in glorious Google and found this.

I was not. Now I have something new to aim for.

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Jayme Karales

“Jayme K. is the author of the novel Disorderly, as well as numerous short stories, essays, and poems. His work has been published by UnHollywood, Before Sunrise Press, Underground Books, Miracle E-zine, Nostrovia! Poetry, Slasher Studios, Your Daily Subvert, Moon Project, and Flash Fiction 365. He lives in Boston.”