John La Greca reached into his back pocket, brought out a crumpled piece of paper and handed it to Vernon Public Library writer-in-residence Harold Rhenisch.
The paper contained a poem, one of dozens the Vernon man had written over 40 years.
He expected Rhenisch to tear it up, but the author did the opposite.
“I told him it was a very interesting poem and we talked about it for a while,” Rhenisch said.
Rhenisch shared the story of his first meeting with the 63-year-old man ahead of introducing him to an audience that gathered for a reading from La Greca’s published book in Kelowna on Friday night.
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Homeless Memorial is a collection of poems written about street life, homeless people and prostitutes he has met since the 1970s.
“I was amazed when it actually did come out,” La Greca said. “Now I’m used to it.”
The book is, “an affirmation of the power of art, a testament to love, and a challenge to any conception that considers schizophrenia or poverty as limiting handicaps on the spirit,” according to B.C. publishing company Ekstasis Editions.
La Greca hopes those who read his writing learn not to judge people by their clothes, where they live or what they do for work.
“Don’t make status a reason to get to know somebody,” he said.