Last week I strolled through Washington Square Park in New York City with my friend Samra. We had just shared a Thai meal nearby and couldn’t forgo the wonderful weather as we headed back to the train. The usual street performers, frisbee throwers and skateboarders marked their territory with their crafts. A woman shouting “sign up to vote” was drained out by a violinist playing in the middle of the square. With all that was going on, my eyes fixated on a large cardboard sign. "ASK ME FOR A POEM" it read, in thick black Sharpie. Samra and I headed over.
Peter Chinman, better known as The Park Poet, asked me for a topic. “Love,” I told him. Immediately realizing that word could mean anything, I vented to him about a short yet fulfilling relationship I once had with another poet. Behind his thick-rimmed glasses, I could see he was paying attention to my tale, finding rhyming words to put my story into prose. Within a few minutes, the 29-year-old writer handed me a sheet of paper with a shockingly well-written poem about a lost love. I sent him $20 on Venmo because he works on donations.
Chinman has been working as The Park Poet since April 2017. Writing anywhere between 20 to 60 poems a day, mostly on the topics of the beautiful absurdity of having a body, the limits of language and death in its richness, he’s been making a living and growing a following from his full-time freelance gig. We caught up with Chinman to learn more about crafting poems for strangers.