For Valentine’s Day, I’m writing love poems for strangers. I conceptualized the idea because I am over this boring world where we rarely tell anyone how we feel about them until it’s too late.
I also started this project because I needed money. There is no better way to bring in funds than monetizing your favourite hobby. I began my writing career by articulating every negative, angsty thought that entered my brain and putting it into a Tumblr folder, which ultimately led to more sophisticated rants published in literary magazines. I released my first full-length poetry collection last September. I dread being asked to read from the collection in a room full of strangers, as each page contains some personal horror that I would never talk about if it wasn’t written down and bound in a softcover.
Part of the reason that I began this new endeavour was because I was bored. My personal struggles that had fuelled my writing career since its premature birth at the age of 13 were all in the past. I was no longer in agony over every familiar song that my hometown radio station played on The Drive at 5. I wasn’t filling my notes app with declarations of love and hate; instead, various grocery lists were starting to take their place.
I felt disconnected from writing because I felt happy. This is every writer’s excuse for not getting better — if I lose the misery, do I lose the drive? If I lose the pain, do I lose my ability to create?
Needless to say, this is pretty boring stuff to think about. It irritated me that something so painfully cliché was applicable to my life.
A few years ago, I hosted my debut art exhibit alongside a good friend. She is a digital illustrator and graphic designer who shared a similar cocktail of grievances as me. She wrote some stream of consciousness journal entries about the hardships she experienced and I turned those writings into poems.
It was the first time I was writing in someone else’s head — I was learning how to express their experiences through my manipulation of language. To this day, the poems I wrote about her are some of my favourite pieces.
I spend a lot of time surrounded by romance. When I’m not writing poetry, I deliver arrangements and bouquets for my favourite flower shop and assist my boss to bring every Pinterest wedding board into fruition.
Love poetry seems to be a dying art, as any poetry section at Indigo will show you. Last Valentine’s Day, the florist I worked for suggested that I write different types of love poems as an add-on for orders. People were really receptive to it. More importantly, it felt good to write about joy. It felt good to help people bring some traditional, corny romance into their lives.
Last Christmas, I decided to start offering commissioned poems. My model is based on the idea that I initially used for the poems I wrote with my friend: customers send me as much information as they can about their subject, and I turn the word vomit into a poem.
I would love to be cocky and say that it’s easy — it’s not. It’s challenging in a way that I love. Translating other people’s affection into four stanzas requires me to explore my own feelings. No, I don’t know the people I write about — or their partner or mother or cousin. But I do know what it’s like to love people so intensely that you war dial their phone the moment you wake up from a nightmare in which they got hurt. I have held — and still hold — feelings I never got to offer someone else, and I regret it every day.
There are people in my life to whom I wish I had given pages of fancy scribblings so that they would never consider doubting themselves. I can do that now, for others. Following my commissions, I got a lot of messages that my work had made a lot of moms and partners cry. I haven’t made a dad cry yet, but I’m working on it.