Personalized verse makes a great gift

Wordsmith Erin Lierl crafts original gifts for patrons who ask for her services at her table setup in front of the Hemingway House. She’s a “poet for hire.”

“About half of the requests are love poems or given as gifts to children,” Lierl said. “I also have a lot of requests for poems about cats, probably because I am in front of the Hemingway house.”

Lierl asks about the recipient of the poem, and about a topic, of course. Lierl said patience is key here … she can come up with a pretty good idea of what to write if someone stays by her booth a while.

“I don’t try to push information,” she said. “I can get a vibe from people of what I think they would like.”

During the interview, a customer named Anne Marie came to pick up a poem which was a birthday gift from a friend. The poem is about blossoming and love and life.

“The last line ‘They Gather Their Music that Has Never Been Sung’ speaks to me,” said Anne Marie. “I do musical therapy with people with disabilities in the D.C. area.”

“It is absolutely beautiful,” said her friend, holding back tears.

Each of Lierl’s poems are original. The proof is in her vintage typewriter she carries to her vendor spot. (It’s no coincidence Ernest Hemmingway used a typewriter as well, just a few steps from where she is located.)

“Using a typewriter is slower, so I can think and edit when I am typing. I don’t need a printer either,” she said, smiling.

Lierl is not the originator of this kind of art form; she said she began in downtown New Orleans where she said that kind of freelance writing is relatively common. After writing in New Orleans a bit, she ventured to San Francisco, Portland and Cincinnati and abroad to Portugal. Yes, she also writes poems in Portuguese and Spanish.

In addition to her day work, she has self-published books and collaborates with musicians on song lyrics. Traveling abroad teaching English in refugee situations is another passion. She has been to Thailand, Tibet, Jamaica and Burma and hopes to go to Africa next.

Stop by to see Lierl at her booth from 1 to 5:30 p.m. daily in front of the Hemingway House, 907 Whitehead St., Key West. Her books will be available at the local authors sale on Saturday, April 18, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Oldest House Museum in Key West.


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