A Deluge of Poems About Street Musicians

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January 21, 2011
By Posted in busking | 6 Comments »

I just posted a poem about busking yesterday, and a few hours later I received a fantastic comment, from Willa France who wrote:

14th St. Station on Wednesday, 19 January ~ 2:45 pm

Saw Lady

I descend into an alphabet maze
of Union Square Station
there entranced by ethereal sound
teasing me in, on, around—
a subway pied piper—to you,
you and your steel music partner
in a protean pas de deux at once
instruments of another and I, for
a perfected instant, fall in tune.

Willa – Thank you very much for your beautiful words! When one art form (e.g. music) inspires another (e.g. poetry) – that makes my day. The reason why I love playing at Union Square so much, is because there seem to be a lot of artists and people with artistic souls passing through that particular subway station. Connecting with people such as Willa for me is priceless.

Times Square, June, 2005, photographer: Alexander Mishagin from Russia

Always seeking to add to my collection of poetry about busking, I chanced upon the following poem. While I don’t agree with the conclusion of this poem, it does have some nice words earlier on:

Busker/James Dylan

I was one of the only few
Standing still
Listening to the busker
Watching him entertain
In his own world
He was on a stage
In the grandest stadium

It was as I listened
And looked around
At those walking past
Dropping some change off
Or like me
Standing and listening
I thought about being the busker
I thought about what
Is going through his mind
I thought about what
I would be thinking
If I was the busker

The pavement is soon to be crowded
As the lunch time office folk
Go for a walk
Some to get their lunch
Some to sneak an embrace
With that co-worker they stare at all day

I have a prime spot today
Plenty of shops around
Plenty of the right sorts of people
Those who after buying a new shirt
A gift or some shoes
May get rid of some of that cumbersome metal
By adding it to my collection

Though I seek the lighter form of currency
I can’t be picky
I will settle for what’s on offer

All sorts of people walk by
The labourers
Building new offices
The people who will sit in there
With their shirts and ties
Walk by
Women in their heels and fancy suits
Join them
Look at that girl with the pretty pink heels
And tight business suit
Oh to swap this unclean street
For the clean office
Just to see you swivel around in your chair
Beautiful legs and flowing hair

A couple go for lunch
A group go for lunch
At the Indian restaurant across the road
The couple
Go into the Thai place

Their wallets may leave a tip
For the waiters they see
My wallet is empty
Hoping they will ignore the waiter
And leave the tip for me

Not far down from where I play
I see a fellow on the footpath
Seen him a few times before
He paints Caravaggio and Raphael
Seems like his work is more appreciated
More people stop to take a look
More people stop to give change
Guess the eyes are more generous than the ears
For the eyes have money to give
The ears have nothing to spare

All these people walk by
Some give a sigh
Obviously I am not to their liking
Some give coins just cos I try

What a meaningless way to live
Trying hard
Trying to please
And people simply walk by
Not a care in the world
For what I do

James Dylan



6 Responses to A Deluge of Poems About Street Musicians

  1. John on January 21, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Yes, a lovely poem (except for the last part).

    I’ve enjoyed your playing for some time now, both in our Subways and on Prarie Home Companion. The first time I heard you was from far down the tunnel. I knew it was a saw, but I’d never heard anyone play so precisely and with such feeling before. You take it to new heights. And your glass harp, long a favorite instrument of mine, is inspiring.

    Thanks for sharing your playing with us. When you’re in the subway, dragging along, there’s nothing meaningless about it. Quite the opposite.

    • The Saw Lady on January 21, 2011 at 8:47 pm

      Thank you very much for your kind words, John!
      Where have you heard saw playing before? If you happen to be in NYC on July 16th, you might enjoy hearing lots of people playing the saw at the annual Musical Saw Festival. You can see info: MusicalSawFestival.org

      Here is a little souvenir from Prarie Home Companion:
      Prarie Home Companion

      If you see me in the subway again – come and say ‘hi’!

  2. Sharyn on January 24, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    Your music is lovely, I’m glad my etherworld thoughts connected with yours so I could then connect with your saw and you.
    Thank you for stopping by, and all the best~

  3. Marta Apple on January 29, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Dear Natalia–and Willa–

    This poem is so beautiful! I’m moved by the experience. It’s both specific and somehow deeply universal to the experience of New Yorkers. Can I publish Willa’s poem in my blog?
    I collect New Yorker’s stories from the subways.



  4. Will on February 5, 2011 at 6:54 am

    Hi Natalia!
    I stumbled upon your blog while searching for info on busking in the USA. I’ve been reading entries now for the last 30 minutes and have fallen in love with the sound of the saw in the background! 😀

    I’m a busker myself, from Belfast, now living in Scotland. I’m hopefully going to be visiting NYC next month and had been considering bringing my guitar along and busking a little bit. Like you, I’m in love with the experience… since I started busking, I’ve gained so many great stories and had so many amazing conversations with folks on the streets.
    Do you have any advice? I’m not sure what the law is like for buskers over there, and even less sure about where a good place to pitch would be.

    Thanks very much!

  5. Mark Weiss on May 11, 2011 at 3:05 am

    I am organizing something called International Congress of Buskers of Palo Alto or ICOBOPA pronounced Eye Co Bow Pa in Palo Alto CA and maybe you can attend or play.

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