London’s Pavement Poet: Joseph Marinus

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I met the poet Joseph Marinus in front of a graffiti portrait of William Shakespeare. He sits on a foldable garden chair in front of a frayed blanket laden with multi-coloured A-5 envelopes. I couldn’t help but be drawn to this collection of colour and, when I saw a sign that read “Magic Poem Carpet”, I simply had to stop.

I was fascinated by what I saw. Joseph presented what can only be understood as a pavement anthology, a collection of his work laid out on the ground under a bridge in Southwark.

Joseph described his selection of poetry as a noticeboard to the people of London. He turns the insights of passers-by into poems in coloured envelopes. The colours, he tells me, express the feeling of the poem. Pink is for love, blue for peace, yellow for joy.

There is something rather remarkable about a street poet. I asked Joseph if he’d ever pavement2.jpgwant to publish his work through traditional channels. He spoke about the difficulty of getting involved with major publishing agencies but he was reluctant to tell me what those difficulties were.

My assumption is that Joseph likes his status as a street poet. He is able to gather inspiration from the same people who read his poetry. The more people who are interested in purchasing his work, the more people stop and speak to him. The more people he speaks to, the more poems he produces and the more colourful envelopes he can add to his growing collection, and the cycle continues.

Joseph creates anthologies of his work by hand. Here is one of his collections.

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The title of this collection sums up what Joseph’s project is. It is an anthology of people, of peoples’ lives, loves and experiences all collated into a book hand crafted by Joseph himself.

I asked Joseph to choose me a poem. This is what he chose:

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Hear the Tavern Keeper is the story of a wise tavern-keep advising a lost traveller to believe in the power of the road that carries them. No matter the troubles the traveller may face, they should have faith in the path they are set. Although the metaphors are rather inconsistent and the tempo is somewhat ragged, I see this as a representation of Joseph as a poet. He is untrained, imperfect and inconsistent as a writer. Perhaps Joseph himself is the wary traveller, keeping faith in the fact that his road will carry him onwards, no matter how unconventional this road may be.

So, if you ever find yourself under a bridge in Southwark, look out for Joseph on his folding garden chair next to a ragged blanket covered in envelopes and ask for a story. You never know what insights you’ll gather from these short snippets of life.

Jemma Carr is a third-year English and Politics student at the University of York. She is a freelance writer for South West Londoner, Grazia and Emirates Woman. She also runs her own blog.

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