This past Saturday my SO and I drove out to Hollywood to The Fat Dog to learn more about the Poetry Salon. What is The Poetry Salon?
This is their story: Our service began when our poet and founder, Jennifer Styperk, was writing her second book. Using transcripts from interviews with family members, she experienced firsthand the healing effects of transforming people’s life stories into poetry.
Serendipitously, Jennifer met PS Editor, Heather Miles, after they
had both attended Cal Arts during separate time periods. Mutual
friends played the match-maker for our powerful duo. Bonding over
a passion for writing and storytelling, the pair have worked tirelessly
to create Poetry Salon. While following their passion, both Heather
and Jennifer are capturing the memories of others.
Along the way we found a group of published poets also dedicated to
translating people’s thoughts, feelings, stories and experiences into
poetic language. Clients continue to confirm the ways in which our
service spreads joy, healing, affirmation, peace, good will, and love.
We offer individually crafted poems and poetry art objects for all
occasions through a unique interview process that assures quality and
And last Saturday, my SO and I got to witness first hand how the interview process work. As we sat together answering a series of questions from how we met to what we did for a living to what are interests were, our poet, Heather Miles, then went to work in creating this gem of a poem:
“Home in You”
Following you, following dreams to Southern California sunsets.
Following hearts, following writing, at home, baking making my life with you.
You’re higher than my sky and deeper than my ground.
The Sound of your voice, your choice of words, writing together, drafting our lines.
Finding each other, like a draft blown in from the Minnesota cold, into me like the blooming flower you’ve grown, become, one, my lone, my own, my home. My home.
The poem, so touching in what we have become with one another was the perfect touch to a wonderful evening.
The Poetry Salon is a great service that makes for wonderful gifts from wedding proposals to speeches, to anniversaries to mother’s day to Valentine’s Day to birthdays. Whatever the occasion may be, Poetry Salon will truly make it memorable.
They also are open to live events where you bring them in and their team of poets (over 600 to choose from!) can create custom poems for your guests right there. And trust me, it is a gift you will cherish for years to come.
I also asked founder Jennifer Styperk a few questions:
Jennifer Styperk and myself
1) I really enjoyed reading the story of how Poetry Salon began, has anyone ever made a custom poem for you?
What a great question, Jamie! A lot of people have asked me if I write a lot of poems for my fiance but no one has thought of me. We all love receiving the gift that we love giving the most, don’t we? I was so very touched when my then boyfriend now fiance wrote me a poem for our first Valentine’s Day together. He is a brilliant photographer but by training is on the quaint side of finance, so it was especially touching that he ended the note and poem with a very experimental style of poetry that can be read from any direction! It meant so much to me that he was willing to step out of his comfort zone and write a wild, wonderful poem for me. He also went so far as to meticulously “rough-up” the edges of the paper upon which he wrote, knowing how much I love the raw-edged effect of Poetry Salon’s handmade European letter sized paper.
2) What is the process for writing out the poem?
I am certain that each of our poets have a different process, all 600 of them. But I can share with you my process. I like to read the initial interviews over and over, and let the story sit for a little, then I return to the interview with my pink highlighter and blank paper. At this point, I’m drawing diagrams on the blank paper, exploring the various and possible metaphors in the stories that I see, also looking for patterns and imagery. On the actual interview, I highlight key lines, content I just can’t leave out, and also key phrases that I want to include verbatim in the poem. It is important to me to show people their own poetic talents, even if it is not immediately obvious to themselves. At this point, I will write a first draft. Again, I’ll sit it aside for a few days. When I return, I go back to the original interview, seeking more connections, patterns, images and metaphors that I may have missed the first time. At this point, sometimes I’ll write an entirely new poem, other times I’ll refine the current draft. Either way, I then set it aside again, return, see what I’ve got, and usually at this point, I’ll edit, refine and then send to my co-founder and current PS Editor, Heather Miles. She, like me, fiercely upholds our Poetry Salon standard that these are poems that can and will be published in esteemed literary journals. We are not writing greeting cards, though I get a lot of greeting card writers applying to write for PS. We hire only published, professional poets because there is a true art to crafting a poem, and while every client and poet may be different, we uphold the highest of standards always. At this point, I’ll consider and reconsider any final edits suggested by Heather or myself, take a final look, affix the PS logo, date stamp and draft 1 to the word document and send it along to the client.
We practically beg the clients to be honest with us, the editors, and go from there. Often a client loves there poem, sometimes there are details and facts that needed correction, and less often a client is underwhelmed. The few times a client has been underwhelmed we rewrite until we are evoking chills, falling in love all over, laughter, tears of joy, in other words, significant, meaningful feelings. Only twice have I reassigned a second poet to start from scratch and write a new poem. But I will assign a second poet every time if I have to. We guarantee satisfaction and we mean it.
3) So I read that there are over 600 poets to choose from when creating the right poem for a client, how did you begin connecting with these poets?
It is very important to me that we maintain a large, diverse network of poets. This ensures that we are truly able to match a poet’s talents and life experiences with the style and story needs of the client. I’ve lived, worked, and studied as a poet in London, New York, Pittsburgh, Savannah, Austin, Spain, Los Angeles and now Santa Monica. This is the start to my network already being expansive and diverse. It also helps that I have strong connections with all the universities where I’ve studied literature and creative writing. Finally, every year a large number of professional and published poets graduate from MFA programs. These graduates are highly skilled and, importantly, highly practiced. All of this together, combined too with the number of poets who apply regularly, allows us to have an expansive, diverse, ever growing talent pool.
4) Is there a memorable experience you had with one of your clients (without naming names, of course!)
My absolute favorite order thus far was a woman who ordered a poem for herself. Yes, I thought. This is exactly the kind of connection, difference and courage I’m aiming to inspire. This female client had suffered a broken heart after her first love passed away and was struggling to get past breaking up with her second love. I knew exactly the poet for her, who really went above and beyond by also including a piece of artwork with the poem to hang on her wall.
Some other favorites of mine include a grandfather who ordered a poem for his infant granddaughter and then came back asking for my advice on what to engrave on a treasure chest he was having made for her. The clients who are mourning and evoking the voice of their loved ones through a poem hold a very special place in my heart. their courage to reach out during grief, share their stories, and find the will to read the poem despite their deep heartache inspires me.
The most difficult poem I’ve written thus far was for a mother from her three children. Between the three of them there were so many stories, but it was very rewarding to find the overlaps and create a single poem out of three voices.
5) Where would you like Poetry Salon to go next?
We are working on expanding the channels through which people learn about Poetry Salon. I’d like to see us on Red Envelope and also offered at the end of engagement ring purchases on Blue Nile, for example. I’m also very interested in the ways in which our proprietary matching system can be applied to match all artists with various marketplace needs. Having a truly scaleable yet truly bespoke offering is truly unique. The world is the limit! We already have poets who write in Spanish, French, German, Hebrew, Arabic, Polish, Mandarin, Japanese and more.
6) And, in your own words, why do you think Poetry Salon will make for a wonderful Valentine’s Day Gift or gift period?
There is no gift more powerful then showing your loved one your feelings, memories and thoughts about them. Poetry shows instead of telling, it evokes the feels rather than stating them. We find the words you so deeply feel but may have trouble finding yourself, for sure. And we do so much more. We reveal the poetry inherent in your life, the music, metaphors, music and imagery. And if that is not enough, a loved one reading you a poem that honors you is a truly flooring, memorable, meaningful experience. There is no other way to truly reach into someone’s heart and your own, we are as close as you’ll get to a telepathic message, and even better because the poem is a work of art that is a lasting family heirloom.
Has she sold you on the experience because she’s completely sold me. A poem is a lasting gift that can be framed, hung on the wall, and cherished for years to come. For those that can’t find the words, Poetry Salon is the perfect solution, or for those, who want to deepen the connection Poetry Salon will truly come through for you.
As for our poem, my SO and I will be framing it and keeping it around for years to come. Thank you so much Jennifer, Heather, and Deanna for a memorable Saturday night amongst friends. For more information about Poetry Salon, make sure to check out their site.
Melissa, Deanna, Jennifer, and Jamie
Disclosure: I was provided with a custom, heartfelt poem on behalf of Poetry Salon.