It's 'goofy' and terse, but they like his verse Judge-poet branches out, markets his gift for rhyme

November 28, 1995|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Andy Wakshul's penchant for poems has landed him in the Doggerel House, but he's happy to be there -- that's the name of the east Columbia man's business of rhyming for dollars.

The 46-year-old poet-for-hire composes personal poems for any occasion -- from a silly birthday rhyme to a romantic ballad.

Although he's been writing poetry since he was 6 years old, Mr. Wakshul just recently turned his home in Kings Contrivance village into the Doggerel House.

"Doggerel is comical, lower-class poetry. It's usually supposed to be light," he explained. "This is grind-it-out goofy poetry, but people really like it."

Mr. Wakshul, an appeals judge for a federal government agency, has already made a name for himself at work, where he's been dubbed the "office poet laureate."

His tributes to retiring co-workers are most popular, though he's known to occasionally reply to memos in verse.

For example, a clerical error prompted his poem "Lines on Discovering the Absence of Half the Detroit College of Law Review Article."

No one is immune from his pointed pen, no occasion too small to note. A secretary who burned her forehead with a curling iron received this wish from Mr. Wakshul:

"Place those unguents on the spot

Smear them thickly more than not

Mustn't curl your face or head-a

Hope your wound is feeling bettah!"

His gift for rhyme has always amused his wife, Susie, an attorney; 14-year-old son, Lenny; 12-year-old daughter, Amanda; and family friends. In fact, it was a friend who showed him a poet's ad in The New Yorker for customized verse and suggested that Mr. Wakshul give it a try.

Upon learning that the poet charged $100 to write a 20-line poem, typed and faxed, Mr. Wakshul decided to see if there is a market for his talent.

So, in mid-July, Mr. Wakshul and his wife taped fliers to neighborhood bulletin boards. He charges $75 for a basic poem of under 40 lines and delivers it in presentational quality.

Responses are trickling in, said Mr. Wakshul, who has taken on assignments from an errand service and two area residents who asked him to write birthday poems.

To get his creative juices flowing, Mr. Wakshul asks his clients to fill out a two-page information sheet. "The more information I get about the person, the better the poem," he said.

The work isn't exactly painstaking. It typically takes him 15 minutes to spin out one of his poems. "Once I'm inspired, it just rolls out -- almost like I can't stop it," he said.

Mr. Wakshul writes his poetry on the computer at the office or on his personal computer, which is temporarily set up in his living room. His wife has plans to move it to the basement, he says.

"The computer is a Godsend. I don't know how Lord Byron did this with a quill pen. There'd be a lot of scratching out with mine," said Mr. Wakshul, who likes to adorn his work with fancy fonts and color illustrations.

He has a rhyming dictionary if he gets stuck, but after 40 years of writing, rarely has to use it.

"There's something satisfying in finding words and putting rhyme and rhythms together. It has to please me first," he said. "And usually it pleases them."

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