From NYT poet to homeless to fame once again

An interview with Mr Green

Every day for the past few semesters going and coming home from school, I would transfer at Bleecker Street. There are not many homeless people who sleep at the Bleecker/Broadway station. There is though one man, who would make for himself a spot by a certain staircase I take to get to or from home. I would always notice this man sitting on the floor, far from his cup to collect money and also setting up boxes with fliers of his name posted on top. Donald Green, a late 60s African American man is a poet that most of you have not heard of. His has signs all around him says “New York Times favorite Poet” and of course “follow me on Youtube.”

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For a while I used to think it was a joke, that someone published in the New York Times would be sitting here trying to sell and share his new poems. I would usually bypass this man, and not think further about him, as many of us do to many homeless people we see. We assume that they are not worthy of our attention, love, and empathy, because they are not working members of our society. But we tend to forget that they are also people, and that should be enough to negate the stigma of being a homeless individual.

A few weeks ago, I was going about my daily routine to catch the 6 Train uptown from Bleecker. I noticed Mr. Green moving his boxes with his signs and poems, and because I had so much time before class, I thought to finally get to meet the poet. I introduced myself, offered food, drink, and some money, and I stood to listen of his life’s journey. Mr. Green mentioned to me “You know I was one a poet for the New York Times, if you don’t believe me here look at this article”. He was indeed once published by the New York Times in Jan 2, 2000 by Bruce Weber for his original poem “Hope.”

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Green for years vied to reclaim his status as a New York Times poet, but unfortunately after his golden age in the 2000s it started to die down. He turns to the streets to find inspiration for his next great poem. It was not my business to ask Mr. Green how he became homeless, but for whatever reason how, I still was eager to read his poems. I asked him, if he would give me an original piece of his poems, I would do my best to write an article on it and publish it online.

He said to me “Really? You would do that for me!” and when I told him I write for a few publications one being The Tab, his face lit up with much joy even though he was feeling sick that day. He gave me a special written copy that listed a dozen original poems and I have chosen one to write about that struck a chord with me.

So here’s his latest poem, Blue Joy: 

Blue Joy

Out of gray Sky

Came a bright blue Bird

He sat upon my window sill

And for an instant no

More than a ray of sun

In the whirl of time we

Stared at one another

He then lifted his blue wings

And gently returned to the gray

I combed my hair

I brushed my teeth

I dressed

I then had my morning lemon

And went off to work

And when the gray had

Gone to yellow and from

Yellow to a soft mellow Brown,

I gathered my things and rushed home

I wanted to see if he had

Come again with evening time

Why?

I could not really say

Perhaps this is what

Loneliness can come to….

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Out of all the poems I have read of Green, this one made me cry, I was touched by the immense relationship between a man and a bird, and the fulfillment it provides him. I feel all of us can relate to a time where we have in our day something to look forward to seeing even if it is was a bad day. Whether if it is our partners, cats, art work etc, and when it is not available we become empty because we can’t live without it.

I really was able to see myself as Donald Green being the one waiting for the bird, as he does everyday when sitting, and waiting for some opportunity to arrive to his door. I really did get a taste of his loneliness through reading this poem, and I can’t even imagine how it feels to sit in one area all day, as tons of people walk by you, and don’t even bother to say hello, recognize or even see you as equal. You never know what people are truly capable of, and what gifts they have to give the world. As the famous saying goes “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” until you have read what is inside.

If you ever happen be by Bleecker Street and see Mr. Green with his posted boxed fliers “New York Times Poet” stop by for a minute, say hi, ask to read some of his plays, it would make him feel once again, that the world needs great poets like him.

You can contact Mr Green here.

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