Here's a story I love about a man who has taken the low-tech, highly personal road to making people smile.
Berkeley, California is home to some terrific people like my fellow CyberStar® Ira Serkes. It's also home to Zach Houston, the Supermarket Poet.
The what? Yes, the Supermarket Poet. As you enter a busy supermarket, he'll ask, "Need a poem written while you shop?" Give him a topic and he'll write you a poem, either while you shop or while you wait. He doesn't have to worry about computer glitches or power outages; his poems are tapped out on a manual typewriter.
This is street performance with a difference – even he doesn't know what he will create until someone gives him their idea, and he'll do a poem about anything. When people like his poems, they give him a few dollars. On his best day he made $150, which for a poet of any kind is pretty good money. He's making a living, and he made it on to CBS Sunday Morning.
So what kind of poetry does he write? One woman wanted a poem about affordable housing in Berkeley; we don't know what he did with that one. But a man asked for a poem about love and motorcycles. Zach's creation was: "We are two wheels, between us a machine, that keeps the concrete from touching our feet, taking the places to us on a machine, made of two pieces of each other." The guy loved it.
William Wordsworth, the English poet, once described a poet's work this way: "In common things that round us lie some random truths he can impart, the harvest of a quiet eye."
CBS' correspondent, John Blackstone, summed it up perfectly: "Now shoppers are harvesting the random truths of Zach Houston's quiet eye — and Houston figures he's getting his words' worth."