Long red hair, round glasses, a pendant in the shape of the sun on the chest, Chris Ames has the casual style. The 62-year-old is a poet and backpacker. He was born in Salt Lake City in the American state of Utah, and has lived mainly in France since 1993. In early 2020, when he came to visit his son studying in Rennes, he put down his backpack under the Laënnec bridge, Saint-Hélier district.
“The confinement forced me to stay there”, explains the man who has not had an apartment for fourteen years. Author of bilingual French/English poetry books, the former English teacher took advantage of being confined to a restricted geographical space to write from a more concentrated trip than usual, that of his daily life as a confined homeless person. on the banks of the Vilaine.
His new poems can now be found in a book, Sous le pont Laënnec, published by Goater, a Rennes publishing house. We discover the cohabitation with living beings on site: ducks, nutria, street people, police, neighbors, cormorants, rats, etc. “It’s the story of a fixed point, a journey where humans and animals arrive and leave the frame,” says the writer SDF philosophically.
The observation is singular and the reflections profound. The poems navigate from humor to pain. Photographs taken by Chris Ames also show his place of life, his layout made of materials recovered from the street, and the cave paintings and other glass mosaic decorations he made there.
I should open a big bookstore here, with a neon sign that says “Books, books…”
Invited to the Amazing Travelers
In June, the writer had the honor of presenting his book at the Amazing Travelers festival in Saint-Malo. Since his visit to the show – and the media coverage that goes with it – Chris Ames has been recognized in the street. “There are people in the city who say, ‘It’s the poet who lives under the bridge.’ It’s fine because it’s still a small town, it’s not Los Angeles”, laughs and tempers the traveler. “People come here for signings. I should open a big bookstore, with a neon sign that says “Books, books…””, he says, amused by the situation.
A series of meetings is at the origin of this success. First, one day when he was reading a book in the queue for food aid from Cœur Résistant, Myriam, a Palestinian Rasta, offered him to join the theater group she had joined. The team working at the TNB is made up of twelve people known as “on the margins”, who will become actors and actresses for the duration of the project, accompanied by the director Massimo Dean and the Breton poet Yvon Le Men.
Chris Ames accepts and here he is embarked on the adventure of Les Épiphaniques. He will play one of his poems there, during several performances in March and April at the TNB. It is thanks to this work that Chris Ames was put in contact with Goater to publish his works, accompanied by a beautiful preface by Yvon Le Men, who fell in love with his career.
Over 100 countries
Chris Ames has traveled to over a hundred countries and speaks eight languages today. He started traveling early. The young American joined France at 22 to learn the language and begin a tour of Europe. In 1986, he met a Japanese woman with whom he crossed the Soviet Union to China and Japan where he lived for three years. It was then that he returned to the United States to do a master’s degree in poetry at the University of Utah.
Two years later, he left the country again, tired of the spirit of competition, the lack of friendship and solidarity that reign there. He returned to Asia and China again, but the break-up of the Soviet Union brought him back to Europe in 1991. On the way, he took the opportunity to visit Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Finland or Hungary.
It was in Egypt on Mount Sinai that he met the future mother of his two children, Juliet and Gabriel, with whom he would live in Paris. Following their separation, 17 years later, he resumed his life as a backpacker and homeless person. First in a park in the Paris region, then around the world. Before returning to Europe and France, then to Rennes.
The confinement forced me to stay there
Next goal: publish a novel
Chris Ames draws on his own stories to write. “In the majority of my books I am on a journey. I mix my memories with my imagination”, testifies the author. He likes to talk about his role as a father and his connection to his children. His first book dealt with his divorce, the second with a separation, the third with his exile in Russia, and the fourth is a collection of poems that he wrote to his children for each of their birthdays.
His books are his daily livelihood. He mainly sells them in the Paris metro. But he notices that reading is no longer a good trade. “When I go on the subway to talk about poetry, 90% of people have headphones, they look at their little smartphones… And I see one or two ladies my age with round glasses, they listen to me and buy me books”, notes the author, bitter and saddened by the withdrawal into oneself of our society.
Although he has gained recognition in Rennes for poetry, Chris Ames would like to be published for his novels. His wish: to be read and to be able to get out of precariousness thanks to his job. “I hope something will happen for me, like for Harlen Coben or JK Rowling who earn millions of euros, to live better than that (by showing where he lives). But I wonder if it was not a bad choice of my career to be a writer! “, he continues with irony. Chris Ames is preparing his next novel, the title of which will be Worlds of darkness and light. On good terms.
The poetry book Sous le pont Laënnec (Goater editions) is available at the Le Failler bookstore and on order in all bookstores.
letelegramme Fr Trans