“I think the journey I’m on now started with the death of my wife in June, 2009. It was around that time that I started coming to the Downtown Eastside. I was briefly homeless starting in February 2010 and came to the Downtown Eastside looking for shelter. I felt there was something I wanted to do down here, but I wasn’t sure exactly what.
“In June 2010 I entered the Hope In Shadows contest. I had a winning photo, which is of the Pennsylvania Hotel with the window washer. My involvement with Hope in Shadows then led me to Megaphone. I’ve always had more to do with writing and poetry than I did with photography, so I started submitting poetry to Megaphone.
“I worked in construction from 1993 to 2010. When my wife passed away, I knew that I was going to make a change. I never considered myself a poet, but I wasn’t necessarily going to spend the rest of my life working in construction.
“I worked off of what I was going through emotionally and the community around me. It’s a great community, both for receiving artists and also for providing material. There is a lot going on, a lot of real gut stuff.
"Art has a healing element to it. I’m going through bi-polar treatment. I don’t think the poetry specifically reflects a struggle with mental illness, but it definitely reflects where I am at any given place along the line and I think it’s useful for that. Poetry has helped me gain understanding of where I’ve been.
“The magazine gives people the opportunity to put themselves out there. I’ve had opportunities to read my poetry at the Waldorf, at the First United Church summer picnic and I was also invited to read at the Rhizome Cafe. Those have been really important episodes because it gives me a chance to connect with the audience in a way that you can’t do by just submitting works.
“I’ve gotten a lot of benefit out of being associated with the magazine without having to be one of the most active sellers. I think it has been a big help to me psychologically and socially.
“It helps keep me grounded.”
Check out the video of James reading his poetry at the Vocies of the Street launch last May at the Waldorf Hotel.
James is a Megaphone vendor. He is also an active member of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council and is also involved with the Spirit Circle at First United Church.