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Poetry Project

Lost for words? Try a web poet

Marketplace Staff Feb 12, 2009
Poetry Project

Lost for words? Try a web poet

Marketplace Staff Feb 12, 2009


Bill Radke: Valentine’s Day is neigh. A wonderful time for poetry, not an especially profitable time — most working poets have some sort of day job to support their art. But Marketplace’s Sean Cole has learned about one way to make poetry pay. Here’s Sean.

Sean Cole: Danielle McDonald has been writing poetry for years. But she never really did anything with it. Never published. And then, about a year and a half ago, a friend of her’s needed to write a poem for his wedding ceremony, but he didn’t know how.

Danielle McDonald:: So he actually asked me to write the poem, but the catch was he didn’t want his wife to be, to know that he hadn’t wrote it.

The poem was a hit. And when the truth came out that Danielle had written it, she got more requests.

McDonald: Weddings, bar mitzvahs, christenings, even funerals. And I thought, ah! I could actually make a little bit of money from this. So SecretWriter was born.

Secretwriter.org, that is. Danielle is now a professional online Cyrano. Here’s part a poem she put together for another couple’s wedding:

McDonald: “The first date was a success/ Trevor wore his Batman t-shirt. Lara a pretty dress. After many a date . . . “

Cole: Do they all rhyme?

McDonald: Mine do, yes.

McDonald: “Nailing, hammering and painting the walls. This was not a problem with Trevor’s new tools.”

Basically, you send Danielle your request and she sends you a questionnaire, asking for all the names and details she’ll need to personalize the poem. She charges $50 to $200, depending on how quickly you want the poem.

McDonald: The top end is for the express service and that’s for a poem that’s turned around within 24 hours.

She’s only had a couple of express requests.

McDonald: Not to sound sexist but both of those have actually been from men that have left it to the last minute.

And she has a surprising number of competitors. I easily found five other Web sites like SecretWriter. One charges $50 for a limerick and a $125 for a sonnet. Another charges $150 for a limerick, but you can get a Valentine’s poem for $74.95.

This is probably one of the easiest ways to make money from poetry, and you still can’t survive on it. Danielle’s husband is the main breadwinner. Her poems pull in 200 bucks a week at most.

Cole: And do you see them as poems or do you see them as products?

McDonald: I see them as poems. If it’s a product then it just becomes about the money, which if it was just about the money then I would be probably working for a TV station or for a radio station.

Cole: Yeah there’s tons of money in radio, let me tell you.

McDonald: Oh really?

No. Not really.

I’m Sean Cole for Marketplace.

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