Zaynab Mohammed will write you a poem about anything you want, on the spot, on her manual typewriter, without hesitation. She is Baker Street’s busking poet, seated at a table on the sidewalk beside a sign that reads “Poet on Commission. Inspire me.”
She writes poems as she waits for someone to approach her. Then, for their donations, she will either give them one she has just written or she’ll write one to order.
“It is unique, it is different,” she says. “People don’t usually write you poems, maybe a lover or family member, but it is really rare.
“Poetry has always been there for me,” she says. “But the physical act of writing it just started a few years ago. It is a kind of dance, just the way you move and interact, that is what poetry is. Then writing it down is defining it or putting meaning to things, capturing moments that are felt and then gone.”
Asked about the experience of busking, Zaynab says, “It is stimulating and sometimes nerve-wracking and challenging.”
If it’s nerve-wracking, she doesn’t show it. She approaches her instant street poetry with an air of quiet confidence.
“For the most part people are really nice and if I am not in a good mood it puts me in a good mood because I am doing what I love doing and I am able to share it, right away, it is not in my notebook at home. My favourite thing in life is sharing.
As for her manual typewriter, “I love it. You can’t go back. You can’t make mistakes.”
Zaynab has lived in Nelson since October. She also performs her poetry at events like the poetry slam.
“Spoken word is bringing the poem to life, it takes its own form, and does its own thing. The poem comes through you and when you perform it, it has its own presence and its own energy, and it is magical. I feel like I disappear and the poem appears, doing what it wants to do. It is an awesome feeling.”
The Nelson Star commissioned a poem from Zaynab about the experience of being interviewed by a reporter. The poem is pictured below.
“I think it is awesome to remind each other about the things we easily forget,” she says. “This is one way of doing it, that I get to participate in.”