Aaron Belz is no stranger to the Poetic Asides blog. He's been interviewed here after his Lovely, Raspberry collection was released, and he participated in my Google+ Hangout experiment in April. But I just had to bring him back after his latest stunt on Craigslist.
He recently opened an ad on Craigslist to sell his services as a poet, and he's actually getting some business as a result. Click here to read the ad. What started off as a joke is turning into a real way to make money--writing poetry!
In fact, his innovative approach has gotten the attention of media outlets like The Atlantic (click here to read), BBC World Service, and this humble blog. His first client asked him to write insult poems (about the client), so he requested information and fulfilled the request. In fact, the insult poetry led to a satisfied customer (click here to read).
The latest and greatest edition of Poet's Market is about to hit bookshelves, but you can pre-order a copy to be first in line today. This book is loaded with articles on the craft, business, and promotion of poetry. Plus, it's loaded with hundreds of opportunities for poetry publication, including listings for book publishers, print and online publications, contests, grants, and more!
But Belz is continuing to get more requests and some of them may surprise you. Personally, I think it's a wonderful way to get poetry back to the people. If visual artists (especially painters and sculptors) are able to create commissioned art without feeling guilty of compromising artistic integrity, why shouldn't poets make a few bucks off having clients bring the poetry prompts to them?
Anyway, Belz sat for a quick Q&A. Picture him sitting composed as in the image above.
Could you share a little about the poetic services you're offering through Craigslist?
Because the ad started as something of a joke, then turned more real as people began actually ordering custom poems, my sense of what I'm "offering" has changed over the past few weeks. Although the ad lists varying rates, I'm really only charging $20 an hour (increased from $15) to write whatever poetry my clients require.
I am also willing to negotiate a flat rate for larger scale work; to wit, an almanac publisher in Mississippi wants a poem-per-month for 2014, and I offered an unbelievable discount of $120 for the lot, provided he pays in advance.
What prompted this idea?
Joblessness, anger, boredom, an increasing sense of my graduate degree in "creative writing" going fallow, sprouting weeds. Poets sure talk the talk, party the party, but do they knuckle down and crank out real poetry for real people?
I have a sense of myself being forever in the twilight of poetry currently being produced, sort of a footnote to the conversation, and this is just the kind of thing footnotes do, I think. We go a little nuts.
How has business been so far?
I now have $240 in incoming work; I've completed and been paid for only $50 of that, however. I also have a request from the BBC World Service to interview on their "World Update" program as well as write a poem about the program.
What rhymes with "Dan Damon"? Canned salmon? Sort of.
What's been the most surprising thing to come of it?
Definitely the Atlantic article and the BBC interview request.
Coming in a close second is a 1.6 lb. box of chocolate I just received from one of my new clients, Patric Chocolate of Columbia, Missouri. Actually—the chocolate is the most surprising and delightful outcome, because I'm about to go eat some of it.
Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer's Digest Writing Community and a person who likes a nice milk chocolate bar. He edits the Writer's Market and Poet's Market books, in addition to the forthcoming Guide to Self-Publishing. Voted Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere in 2010, Brewer's debut poetry collection, Solving the World's Problems, is due out from Press 53 on September 1 (but you can get it on Amazon right now if you're impatient--and I don't blame you). He's married to the poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets (four boys and one princess). Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.
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