“Don’t believe those people who say being a poet isn’t lucrative.”
That’s Eric Vance Walton, a writer who composes custom poetry for clients. His business stretches back to the 1990s, before bespoke everything — shampoo, perfume, Game Boys — became an online phenomenon fed by vendors on Etsy and Instagram. But Walton’s something of an OG: Search for “personalized poetry” on Google and his store is, for now, the first link below a flotilla of ads.
“Most people found me by word of mouth or internet searches,” he says. “I hadn’t heard of anyone else doing it at the time, but I’m sure there were others out there.”
Walton’s been around for a while, and he charges $125 a pop for his custom poems. (He’s also worked a day job at an insurance agency.)
But those without the benefit of SEO need to set the bar a bit lower. People who offer bespoke, personalized poetry on Etsy — and there are a number of them — often start at around $50, sometimes less.
Ryan Wilson is a college student who sells custom poetry for $30 on Etsy. He says he helps provide a service for special occasions.
“I think words are a tricky thing, and the goal people struggle with is to find the perfect set of words to convey a certain emotion,” Wilson explains. “I am, by no measure, an expert, but two minds contributing to the set of words is often better than one. I don’t think I see any one gender more than the other, but most of the poems revolve around some form of love, familial or romantic.”
Both Wilson and Walton note that many of the personalized poems they create are given as gifts for a happy occasion, such as a birthday, wedding, anniversary, or retirement.
“I think words are a tricky thing, and the goal people struggle with is to find the perfect set of words to convey a certain emotion.”
Who’s buying? Walton says clients range in gender, age, location, and race, but they’re all “people who know the emotions they want to convey, but…