Few would refer to the subway as an ideal spot to put pencil to paper and craft poetry, but transit reporter Jose Martinez met one college student who says it's where he goes to get creative, write poems and sell them.
For one Columbia University junior, the subway isn't just how he gets to work. It's also where he works -- as a self-styled poet of the underground.
He sets up just outside the turnstiles on the Bronx-bound side of the 1 line's 86th Street station. There, a couple of nights a week, he handwrites poems for any price you pick -- even if it's nothing -- on any topic a rider wants.
The subway poetry project is something he's been doing since he started at Columbia, where he's thinking of majoring in, naturally, creative writing.
"Immediately after I set up for the first time, and I was super nervous about it, this guy comes over and he tells me he wants a poem about a Craigslist ad for a pirate with Vitamin D deficiency," he says.
He figures he makes, on average, $3 a poem, though he sometimes gets slipped a $20 or a couple of quarters for words he can string together in minutes. And he does his writing in a place that's anything but tranquil.
Even with the din of trains passing on local and express tracks, he says he's at ease writing in the chaos of a rush hour subway station.
"There's a constant influx of people here and interesting perspectives," he says. "I really don't think I would do so well in the street."
He says he's got to be very patient as swarms of commuters pass him by, and any money he earns goes to help his parents pay his tuition.
"I just don't like the idea that I'm living in the city without offering anything to the people who are paying for me to be here, you know?" he says.
And if you want to pay him -- or not -- well, that's up to you.