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Need a Valentine’s Day poem for your sweetheart? It’s just a click away

We can't all date a poet – let alone be one. But if you feel Valentine's Day calls for verse and don't trust Hallmark, you could always try PayPal's "poemgrams," a stunt the Internet payment company organized in the lead-up to February 14.

The company has a posse of Californian literati standing by all ready to whip up some lovey-dovey stuff while you wait.

You fill out a form with details about your loved one (nickname, relationship status, how you met, what is special about him or her) and the tone you want.

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You then enter into an online chat with whatever poet is on duty and within minutes, the poet spits out a bit of verse. If you like it, you can tip the poet – via PayPal, of course (paypal-poemgrams.com).

We got online and gave our poet the details of our editor's valentine, her husband of eight years with whom she first discussed marriage in a Tim Hortons in Vancouver.

To test his mettle we asked for a serious poem. He typed back that funny was more his thing, and asked what "a tim horton's" is, but quickly returned with an acceptable if uninspired bit of blank verse.

"That's bush league. It doesn't even rhyme," was the response from the inamorata, but we decided to tip our poet anyway. After all, this Internet Cyrano has never met us or our lovers, and it only took him four minutes.

He's labouring in a long but never very glorious tradition of the poet-for-hire. Think of all those poor anonymous souls writing doggerel for greeting cards; nothing useful rhymes with mother, love or older but still they plod on, expressing the proper sentiments so the rest of us have only to scribble our names and lick the envelope.

Are their adjectives cloying and their rhymes grating? Sure, but people clearly need their services because it's almost impossible to buy a blank card at the drug store.

At a more exalted level, poets laureate have always written poems on command, assigned the task of celebrating military victories, royal births and sunny days with all the appropriate public emotions.

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This probably last produced good poems in the mid-19th century (when Tennyson took the job as Britain's poet laureate) but it speaks to the enduring belief that the expression of noble sentiments is best left to the professionals.

Whether it's patriotic uplift or deathless passion you want, hire a poet.

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About the Author

Kate Taylor is lead film critic at the Globe and Mail and a columnist in the arts section. More

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