Poems by Post is novel Sussex lockdown start-up

Former street poet Alex Wilkinson has responded to the pandemic with a Brighton-based start-up called Poems by Post.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 6:01 am
Alex Wilkinson

As Alex explains: “I understood the challenges artists were facing when the first national lockdown was implemented. At that time, I was a market stall-holder and I watched on as fellow creatives had their world turned upside down.

“So I decided to do something about it! I set to work on building Poems by Post – a platform that harnesses the power of poetry to support artists and creatively-minded small businesses. Every month we send our subscribers a poem in the post (hence the name) which is typed up using a typewriter and presented on sustainably sourced paper (www.poemsbypost.org)

“We have different featured poets every month, and each poem is accompanied by an emailed newsletter, featuring a video recital of the poem and an introduction to the various other artists we are supporting.

“Since launching in August 2020 we have grown our (paying) subscriber base to around 200. We have supported 30-plus different artists, and we have commissioned six poets to write for us. In spite of the difficulties we are all facing, we are growing and making a real difference.”

Alex added: “I can’t quite pinpoint when exactly it was that the realisation of how serious this virus was dawned on me, but I do know that I knew that I had to do something.

“As I watched fellow artists and creatives around me having their livelihoods decimated by even just the mere threat of a pandemic, I knew that someone, somewhere, had to do something.

“My three years’ experience as a street-poet had taught me the importance of accountability and had provided me with the self-belief that I could be that someone.

“The mundanity of the 9-5 wasn’t something that inspired many, and yet I had witnessed the majority of people in my life sucked into this inescapable cycle.

“And now there was a pandemic. If people had struggled to pursue their creative endeavours before, they had little to no hope now.

“With no money and no furlough/SEISS loan/help at all, I had little option but to enter the very cycle of which I despised.

“I spent the first month of lockdown scouring the internet for a job, before finally gaining meaningful… ahem… employment. A WFH sales jobs – cold calling people and gently convincing them to part with their cash to support charities in need – emphasis on the gently.

“With a source of income secured, I finally had the freedom to begin working on an idea that had lingered in my head for many years, yet was finally sparked to life as I witnessed the devastation around me.

“The idea was simple – I would commission a different poet to write something each month and pay them for it.

“I would then set about typing their poem out multiple times using my trusty typewriter, and post them to paying subscribers. After several months building a website and putting all the cogs in place for Poems by Post, I was finally ready to launch. And I could not wait.”

On August 4 2020 Poems by Post went live. It gained its first subscriber a week later: “Admittedly, it was my partner, but we were off the mark!”

“Buoyed by her belief, I spent every waking hour around my WFH job telling people about Poems by Post and building a subscriber base.

“Fast forward today, and Poems by Post is what I do full time. With growing subscriber base that currently sits around 200 active and paying subscribers, we have been able to support 30-plus different artists, and have both poets and artists approaching us for collaboration.

“With art at the heart of all that we do, we will continue to build community and provide opportunities to those that need it most, and we will continue to encourage people in their creative endeavours.”