Meet Chris Farrell, Queenstown’s busking poet.
The American from Philadelphia has returned to the Wakatipu to ply his rhymes on downtown streets during the days and nights of the busy winter season.
You can often find him down The Mall or near Fergburger – sometimes he sets up beside an ATM machine as he also has a book about his extensive travels for sale.
Farrell, who has been to some out-of-the-way places including Somalia and Guatemala where he was mugged at gunpoint, first started poem busking about a year ago in Christchurch when completely out of money.
The 29-year-old who has Asperger’s – a mild form of autism – says he’d been struggling to get a job: “Most buskers have a guitar or harmonica or something like that and I thought I’d written some poems so I could recite poems.”
Farrell busked for about three days in Christchurch and made $75. Then he tried Queenstown and didn’t go so well at first but got better and made about $40 a day for a six-hour slog.
“During the day I don’t make as much but get the intelligent crowd, people who might be interested in my book and interesting in having a chat.
“Then late at night I get the drunk crowd and they might not care about my poetry and they don’t really care about my book but they throw money at me. So Friday and Saturday nights are the best – when everyone is on the piss and that’s when they throw money at me like I’m a go-go dancer.
“It does carry a bit more risk because people are a lot more obnoxious. The other night someone kicked my bowl over – but this other guy saw what happened and felt bad for me and he bought my book.”
Farrell says he’s never seen another poetry busker: “I’ve seen jugglers, unicyclists, pianists but never a busking poet. It gave me this idea I can go out and recite my poetry and it’s not going to give me a million bucks but it’ll at least give me money for food.”
All up he has about 10 poems to choose from including one called ‘My Queenstown frustration’. Another inspired by his time in the Wakatipu is called ‘Sex on the Beach’ but he says he only pulls that one out at appropriate times: “It’s popular with the drunk crowd but I’m not going to share that one with a couple and a little kid.”
His mild autism manifests itself in him not realising he’s said something offensive – but Farrell says someone with a more severe case might not even be able to feed themselves and most people with autism are extremely resistant to change.
“I would say a very small percentage of people with Aspergers travel.”
His book, My Journey: The World within My World, details two years travelling 28 countries. It sells for $40.