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AGENCY: The International Bureau of Custom Poetry

Bureau logo with lightning bolt graphic

Todd's podcast has launched a poetry commissioning agency that has attracted some of the most important voices in American literature.

The diverse inaugural talents represented by The International Bureau of Custom Poetry include winners of nearly every award in the genre including a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, prominent poets in significant leadership roles with significant careers and peerless reputations — Samiya Bashir, Richard Blanco, Nick Flynn, Major Jackson, Sasha LaPointe, Dorianne Laux, Philip Metres, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and Brian Turner. The roster is expected to expand rapidly after its 2024 pilot year.

Images of poets in the inaugural Bureau lineup

These poets are standing by to write on commission for individuals or organizations, with Todd as "bureau chief" in the role of administrator.

Poets and their commissioners get access to the online recording studios of Todd's podcast, There's a Poem in That (TAPIT), where they can archive their exchanges, potentially for air. Their rights to their poems are protected.

Todd's podcast demonstrates how it works. On the show, total strangers are invited to leave a message on Todd's listener line (808-300-0449) telling him why they feel there may be a poem in their story. Todd does three hours of interviews with each selected guest before he starts writing a custom poem, and sometimes he calls on surprise guest poets to do so instead. Indigenous poet Sasha LaPointe and Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco have featured on Season 1 episodes 5 and 7 respectively. Blanco, who read his poem "One Today" for millions on the steps of the US Capitol at President Barack Obama's inauguration in 2008, has called the experience of writing one-on-one for TAPIT "a deeply moving and personal experience."

Todd wrote poems on private commission himself for 15 years before launching the podcast that gave rise to the Bureau. He recognizes the value of this work, and has honed a practice that he is driven to normalize in the field.

To commission a poet, anyone can leave a message for Todd on the podcast's Haiku, Hawaii, listener line: 808-300-0449, and Todd will be in touch.

Writing for strangers is profoundly rewarding, and it's my great privilege to be able to share those profound rewards with my peers.

Todd's signature


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