The Ballroom Poet

Hotels & Resorts

Meeting or event attendees are always hungry for novel entertainment. Sometimes all it takes is a photo booth or a lively dance band to encourage guests to begin interacting, but on some occasions, attendees crave a more personal experience that results in something they can take home or share.

That’s when poet Silvi Alcivar steps in to become a memorable part of an event that attendees will talk about long after it’s over. Like On Demand movies at your fingertips, “poetry on demand” is a staple of Alcivar’s The Poetry Store, a service for events.

Here’s how it works: Alcivar sets up a typewriter on a small table with a drawer filled with quartered paper squares. Attendees stroll up to her desk and select a small piece of paper with a design to their liking. Next, Alcivar says to her customer, “Tell me what you what want this poem to be about and who it should be for. I’m listening.”

Three short minutes later, the inspired end result is an amusing slice of poetry that brings oohs and aahs from a group of people gathering for a place in line. “What I do delights and entertains people, giving them a personalized [and often very personal] experience they literally take away with them. People who receive poems are grateful that the host was thoughtful enough to provide guests with such a unique and memorable gift,” says Alcivar, “and they get something that doesn’t happen every day—a woman behind a typewriter offering a moment of real human interaction just for them.” The way she sees it, people want to be entertained, capture a moment, commemorate an occasion and say something they can’t quite say themselves.

Alcivar stumbled into her unusual gig by happenstance. Fresh from an MFA program and feeling exhausted by the idea of writing full essays, she says, “I found myself not writing anymore and having a hard time calling myself a writer. So I set myself to the approachable and manageable task of writing for three minutes a day. Eventually, writing little poems for myself turned into writing poems for other people.”

Since turning her passion into a career, Alcivar has provided The Poetry Store services for groups of 10–1,000 for clients  including Google, Levi Strauss & Co. and Winslow & Associates, and she has a sponsorship from the International Special Events Society. “In my three years being The Poetry Store poet, I’ve come to understand that what I do isn’t just about the poems,” says Alcivar. “It’s about what happens when two strangers meet over a typewriter—the anonymity of an invitation to speak, the typewriter keys and a willing listener.”