Most people, upon hearing “Tinder Poet,” will cringe, imagining some corny, deluded Lothario shilling stanzas for swipes. But there is a real life dude who goes by that moniker, and wouldn’t you know, his profile might be the one bright spot on the app.
Scene: Before bed one night, I was reluctantly swiping — you know, out of habit, boredom, and that “oh, just in case!” mindset — when I matched with a certain Alexander, no age, “Tinder Poet” listed as profession. His bio read “hey, you’ve reached the tinder poet. Archive: https://tinderpoetcom.wordpress.com,” followed by a poem of the day.
I was pleasantly surprised that the day’s poem didn’t suck, so I looked up his website and found myself scrolling through verses for maybe half an hour. Some are odes to ostensible Tinder matches, like “For Federico,” which contains the lines, “I don’t want to date you/and I won’t/though your fourth pic is pretty hot/you should make it your first.”
Others put forth New York-specific sensibilities, like the unnamed piece beginning “I am an imposter/in these nice clothes/shuttling through the air/on the old el train.” There are reflections on past loves, “Hey I miss the way you say I’m sorry” and random musings about mortality, “when have you remembered that your birth was mysterious? That you came bloody, out of the womb, and managed, for decades, not to fall down the stairs?”
“For Brian” ends like the world’s most whimsical fortune cookie, “you’re going to be lit by a green light, notice someone’s crooked elbow, ask them to dance,” and elicited in me that corkscrew-to-the-gut sensation I associate with being moved by something.
This is good shit, I thought. And felt grateful to this unlikely troubadour for doing what a standard swiping session has never done for me: piqued my curiosity, stimulated my intellect, and made me feel actual emotions. Sure, the standards are low, but this was a welcome departure from that signature Tinder blend of malaise and revulsion.
I messaged Alexander asking if I could interview him about his project, and we set up a non-date at Project Parlor in Bed-Stuy, our shared neighborhood. I vaguely recalled spending evenings there drinking PBR with dirtbag “poets” during my MFA days, so it seemed an appropriate choice.
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When I arrive, he’s seated in a shabby sofa chair, talking on the phone, very official-like. We move out to the backyard, and he explains that Alexander is actually his pen name, and prefers I use that in the piece.
TP/Alexander is tall, brown-haired and bespectacled, a gentle giant who answers my questions in careful, measured responses. He’s easy to talk to, and I immediately like him as a person, which is more than I can say for most Tinder dates.
This, however, is not a date. Alexander tells me he’s in a relationship, insisting that his presence on the app is strictly in service of his poetry project, and, “although tempting,” he never uses it for dates or hookups.
“I want to keep the integrity of it,” he says. “I only respond to people who acknowledge me as the Tinder Poet. Otherwise, I just don’t have the time.”
The 30-year-old began the project in January of this year, after a work trip to LA where he found himself overbooked with Tinder dates every night of the week and finally burned out from dating app exhaustion. He wanted to do something more meaningful with the platform, providing matches with “something to look forward to.”
“I want to be the only good thing on Tinder,” he says, and then clarifies, “my real goal is to become the poet laureate of the United States, through Tinder poetry only.”
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Although he says he’s been writing a poem a day since his junior year of high school, so far, it remains a labor of love. As his actual profession, he’s a new music/concert composer (he rejects the term “classical,” finding it limiting). He plays cello and guitar, and was formerly in a band called Polysonic Joy until they had a “dramatic falling out.”
I ask if he would ever want to publish a book of his Tinder poems, and he shrugs. “It’s inevitable. We live in a capitalist society.”
He does have a more immediate vision for his alias off the app, though: a poetry reading where he’ll invite everybody on Tinder and auction off a date with him, using the money to fund a guerrilla cover-up of all the subway poems.
“I’m really upset about the subway series,” he explains, which amps me up because, second to the MTA’s crumbling infrastructure and hellish scheduling problems, the outdated, mediocre poetry lining the subway cars draws my ire. We joke about how absurd it is that the mock poems in the PolicyGenius ads are inadvertently better than any of the actual subway poems.
But the egregiousness of the MTA can have a silver lining: it facilitated a meet-cute for Alexander and his girlfriend. They were both waiting for the bus in the Navy Yard; he, after a class in film scoring, at the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema; she, after a shift at the Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory. The bus was taking forever to show up, so they started talking and immediately hit it off.
Transit delays aside, how does one actually make these real-life romantic encounters happen?
“Be bold,” he says. “It’s awkward to talk to strangers, but I feel like if you want to meet somebody in real life, the definition of meeting somebody is talking to a stranger.” I tell him my vibe is probably not the best: always wearing headphones, resting bitch face, dodging catcalls.
“A big part of meeting people in real life is being open to it,” he says, adding that if you’re giving off a good vibe, “people will be attracted to you rather than you having to chase them.”
Or, be the aggressor. One way? Swoop in on a bad Tinder date while one of them goes to the bathroom, he suggests. “Hey, is that a terrible date? Here’s my number.
“Maybe that’s your calling card. It’s super obnoxious, but if that’s you, that’s you.”
I think, I just might try it. I tell him he should write a dating column, “Ask the Tinder Poet.”
He says he’d love to.