Poet Alex Wilkinson is the founder and chief executive poet at Poems by Post. Every month, he and his team pair poetry and art into uplifting mail for people worldwide.
“We send typewritten poetry and captivating artwork to people all around the world every single month, inspiring our audience to connect with their own creativity whilst using our revenue to support grassroots artists,” Alex said. Learn more about Poems by Post in our interview with the poet.
Artisan Joy: How did you get started creating your art?
Alex Wilkinson: My love for writing poetry and songs blossomed whilst I was hitchhiking down the East Coast of Australia. When I arrived in Melbourne, I purchased a typewriter and made a sign that read, “Choose Your Subject, Pick Your Price, Get A Poem!” This creative adventure introduced me to a network of incredibly talented creatives who are wholly dedicated to their craft.
I was inspired to create a platform that provided opportunities for grassroots artists, and when the pandemic hit, this inspiration quickly turned to action, and Poems by Post was born!
AJ: When did you realize that you could turn your craft into a business?
AW: There was never really a moment of realization—it was spurred on by necessity. As the world locked down, I and many other artists found our traditional outlets inaccessible.
I landed a work-from-home job and invested the money I earned into developing Poems by Post. Once the platform existed, it was a case of telling people about it! I called people and knocked on doors—I did everything in my power to inspire an audience in order to allow Poems by Post to flourish!
AJ: Where do you find inspiration?
AW: People inspire me! When somebody has a passion for a particular craft and they dedicate themselves to the pursuit of mastering that craft—wow! Daring to follow a dream is difficult. Even people that love you will question the sensibility of wandering an unconventional path. Obstacles are plenty for any artist, so when people continue to pursue a passion despite the challenges they face, I’m completely and utterly inspired!
AJ: What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
AW: The coordination that goes into making Poems by Post possible! Hand-typing the poems over and over again on a vintage typewriter takes an awful lot of time. I have to ensure that we have coordinated well enough with our poets to have enough time to type out their work whilst also ensuring that our visual artists are given ample time to create their poem-inspired designs.
I then have to get all the poems and cards packed and posted on time whilst preparing for the collaborations we’ve curated for the upcoming months. As somebody who is relatively disorganized and tends to work best in chaos, the pinpoint accuracy that Poems by Post needs in order to exist can sometimes be a little overwhelming. However, I have never been late or missed a postal deadline in two-plus years of running this platform! In fact, I’m pretty surprised to learn that about myself.
AJ: As creatives, we can be continuously creating and refining our art. How do you handle perfectionism?
AW: In truth, perfectionism doesn’t worry me. It used to, but I heard somebody say, “it doesn’t need to be perfect; it just needs to exist.” Hearing that altered my perspective on what perfect is. We all draw inspiration from others, and often the work that inspires us most is pedestalled in our minds. There’s nothing wrong with that! Though it means that when we are creating something, we are comparing our creations to something we perhaps view through rose-tinted glasses.
I believe it is the constant chasing of perfectionism which elevates our craft. We may not ever create something we truly view as perfect, but we will continue to improve and continue to raise our own bar through this pursuit.
AJ: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in putting their work out into the world but feels vulnerable about it?
AW: There’s more than one way to do it! When somebody is thinking about putting their art out into the world, usually the medium they are considering is social media. This comes with all sorts of pressures and can be disheartening. That’s not to say that it’s not an outlet to be explored, but it’s not the only one!
You could share your art with your friends and family, start your own blog, leave little postcards on trains and buses! You could even stick a poem in the post.
There are so many different ways to share your art, and if anybody is interested in figuring out inventive ways to share theirs, I’d be happy to receive an email.
Ultimately though, you don’t have to share anything that you make. The process of creating fills me with joy, and sometimes that’s enough! If what you’re creating makes you happy, then that’s enough. It doesn’t always need to be more than that.
AJ: What’s something that surprised you about running a creative business?
AW: The support of others. There are so many wonderful people out there who are just willing you to succeed. When somebody asks me about Poems by Post, it usually evolves into an enthused and inspiring conversation. Sure, not everybody subscribes, but the power of just a few kind words fuels me.
AJ: Has someone ever criticized your work? How did you handle it?
AW: Oh, of course! I’ve had all kinds of criticisms leveled at me, and I’ve no doubt that I will continue to do so! Most criticisms offer a learning experience. It’s not always obvious at the time, but it’s usually there.
On second thought, perhaps it is obvious at the time, but it takes me a while to see it. I’m developing a little project at the moment that stems from something someone said to me about a year and a half ago. In the moment, it’s natural to put up a guard to defend yourself from any criticism leveled at you. However, if you step back from your initial emotional response, there’s usually something helpful there.
I would also say that not everybody has to like everything. There are plenty of brands and businesses that I don’t like and will openly criticize—and they seem to be doing perfectly fine in spite of me!
AJ: What’s a cause you are passionate about and why?
AW: Creativity as a means of cultivating your mental health! Pen a poem, paint a picture, draw a doodle—anything! The art of creative practice is scientifically proven to improve your mental health. It doesn’t need to be good. You don’t need to show anyone, you just need to do it.
“365 Days of Creativity” by Lorna Scobie is a fantastic journal for prompting creative ideas. If you commit to spending just 17 minutes a day to exploring creative practices, your mind will thank you for it.
AJ: And, of course, we have to ask—what brings you joy?
AW: Spending time with my fiancée, Kelsy. She’s my biggest inspiration, my biggest supporter and my biggest joy.
Editor’s Note: This interview was edited slightly for length and clarity.