Poetry News

Checking In On Refrigerator Poetry And Other Fads

By Harriet Staff

The Wall Street Journal explores the staying (or not) power of certain fad products, one of which is the now famed magnetic poetry adorning refrigerators from the Kappa Moose Wurlitzer frat house to the grandmother's of said frat members and beyond. It turns out, aside from a few missteps, that the creator of Magnetic Poetry, Dave Kapell, is doing quite fine. We also learn that this, like so many great gift ideas, started with a sneeze:

Back in 1993, the Minneapolis native was an aspiring musician who liked to cut up his diaries and rearrange the words to create song lyrics. But he was prone to allergies and, with the pollen count soaring one day, he sneezed and scattered an almost-finished song. An idea was born: Why not stick magnets on the bits of paper and affix them to a cookie sheet to keep them in place?

The contraption stayed in Mr. Kapell's room for a few months until he threw a house party and needed the cookie sheet for baking. The word magnets went up on the refrigerator—and throughout the night, Mr. Kapell's friends kept stealing back to the kitchen to scramble the lyrics. The next day, he got a half-dozen orders for the magnet kits.

"Within a month of the party, it was like I was selling drugs out of my house," says Mr. Kapell, who is 48. "It went viral before viral was a term."

It sounds like Kapell is doing well. And he also has a lot of ukuleles.

Mr. Kapell wouldn't respond to questions about exactly how much he's made from the kits. But, he says, even with the current slowdown, profits from Magnetic Poetry have allowed him to play gigs more than he ever could as a struggling musician. He frequently plays ukulele with a local burlesque troupe and drags along a vintage stand-up bass on camping trips with friends. His house is decked out with a grand piano and a 70-piece ukulele collection.

Originally Published: June 15th, 2011