My second wife made it clear that I had certain duties as a poet: each year there would be a poem for Valentine’s day and one for our wedding anniversary. She was kind enough to let me skip her birthday, since it’s only three days before the anniversary. I actually think some of my best poems are among these “commissioned” pieces, and certainly they include some of my most formally inventive, but I don’t send them out and I rarely showed them to anyone but her. She posted some of them at her office. They are her poems and that is her privilege.
Marilyn Nelson (click here to hear her astonishing crown of sonnets “A Wreath for Emmett Till” at NPR) used to write poems for other people on similar occasions and has published few, if any, of them because they belong to those who commissioned them. Inspired by her example, I’ve often thought it would be a good idea to set up a poetry booth at a craft fair, selling written-on-the-spot sonnets (a few quatrains, anyway) for hire the way visual artists sell portrait sketches or caricatures—and here are some folks who did set up a Poetry Stand. I’m too scatterbrained to think about it till after some particular craft fair has started, but let’s pretend you’re at a craft fair now, and I’m offering verse for hire.
I probably can’t do individual poems for the big public holidays, but write me about an upcoming birthday or anniversary or first Little League game or that Someone You Really Want To Kiss and we’ll discuss the very reasonable terms—most magazines pay in copies (sometimes one copy) so we’re not talking big money, only about two bucks a line. The link to click, again, is verse for hire.