This is what happens when you ask strangers to write you love poems online


Paypal’s poemgram about the Washington Post. (Paypal)

Valentine’s Day is, at its heart, a holiday about money — something Paypal seems to grasp rather well. For reasons we don’t entirely understand, the e-commerce site hired a dozen poets to write free, personalized Valentine’s poems on-demand. You could live chat a Paypal poet your name or romantic details, which seemed a little intimidating. Or you could e-mail the poets your information and get your poem back within 48 hours — which is what we did.

This conceit may sound familiar, and for good reason. A number of artists have undertaken love poem- and letter-writing projects. In “Her,” Spike Jonze’s Oscar-nominated, vaguely futuristic romance, the narrator works as a writer of other people’s cards and letters, a sad sort of occupation meant to signal our modern difficulty with expressing feelings. I actually requested a Paypal poem from Theodore to Samantha, littered with references to the movie — but sadly my poet did not seem to get the joke.

blanket me on your grass
with the delicacies of your
distance
fruit on a low hanging bough
your lips beckon me with the promise
of snack and sun and summer
and all the small laughters they entail

So clearly Paypal’s poemgrams aren’t meant to be terribly philosophical — more of a clever marketing gimmick than anything else. (Although the implications of an e-commerce company producing love poems is, maybe, a subject for smarter minds to ponder at a later time.) Nonetheless, the promise of an original poem, tailored to the user’s exact specification, was too tempting to pass up.

Here, for instance, is Paypal’s love poem from “Elliot” (not a real person) to a cat; the image below is the prompt we submitted:

cats as allegory
for domesticated
and where we come
from also is the
best thing ever
undying devotion
clone them in case
of disaster and
always feed your
feline because
know that fluffy
is only so loving
because you feed
her and she would
if only slightly
larger than she
sees the meals as
a bowl of food
is a bowl of
you elliot


This is its love poem for a stereotypical couple that likes romantic dinners and long walks on the beach:

Walking
while eating
dinner on
the beach
with a candle
is difficult
for many reasons
mostly related
to wind as if
are you blowing
back at me by
saying that
you enjoy
the most
obviously
romantic
capacities
of sarcasm
as a form
of love
that is
better
than what
most people
valentines
are about


And this is Paypal’s “Galentine’s” poem from me to my coworker, Beth. (Happy Galentine’s Day, Beth.)

washington
post pop
culture
cubicle
over the
reference
to recent
acquisitions
of snow winter
whispers of since
seasons change yet
desks and feelings
don’t stable work
place friendships
indeed for the
best sentiment
because unlike
the top boss
bezos becomes
some one else
but Caitlin
and Beth they
remain true
humorous
neighbors
and friends

 


Sadly, Paypal’s army of poets did not fulfill my request for a love poem to Justin Bieber. What Paypal is trying to say about people who love Justin Bieber, I can’t fathom — but then again, I can’t really figure out why Paypal got into this, to begin with.

You can see more of Paypal’s “poemgrams” on Pinterest.


Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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