The Art of the Familiar: Introducing the ‘Short Order Poet’ and why we all need more art.

“They say the shortest bridge between us is a story – well, an even shorter one is a poem.” –Pam Woolway

When was the last time you stopped to smell the roses – or maybe to appreciate a painting on the wall as you pass by? I think most of us have an appreciation for art but rarely have much time to enjoy it in our busy lives. For this post, I wanted to introduce you to Pam Woolway and the unique way her art is connecting people.

Artist and poet Pam Woolway is known as the Short Order Poet for taking ‘orders’ for poems on NCCO’s GuestChecks™. Based in Kapaa, Hawaii, Pam practices her unique art form at public events where she sets up a table and invites customers to supply her a word or phrase, which she then turns into a poem in just a few minutes. She types (yes, with a real typewriter!) these on GuestChecks for a number of reasons – including the sentimental way she feels about GuestChecks and how they fit perfectly with her art form (not to mention, like many artists, she has a history working in foodservice). Pam also creates unique and colorful hand-made books that contain mini collections of her poems.

I recently spoke with Pam about her poetry and we ended up talking a lot about the intangible aspects of what she does: the connections, the emotions elicited, the relationships built and the service she provides in the form of poetry. “There is almost always an immediate intimacy between me and the poem customers once the finished product is read aloud”, she said. In fact, she thinks that’s one reason her poetry being typed on GuestChecks has been such a hit; people associate the GuestCheck with good service, memories of sharing meals with those they care about and feelings of togetherness. “In these days of increasing automation, we are starving for interaction with an actual human.” she said.

I originally talked to Pam to learn more about her and her beautiful art and poetry – but she got me thinking about these themes of togetherness and service on a larger scale. Like the way that businesses try hard to create that feeling of connection with their customers, but sometimes don’t quite hit the mark. When discussing the irony of how isolated we are from each other even in such a globalized society, Pam made this beautiful statement: “They say the shortest bridge between us is a story – well, an even shorter one is a poem.”

It’s wonderful to see community groups encouraging more art in public places, which can produce great results. But since art really does bring people together, why don’t we see more in restaurants, retail stores and the like? Branding consistency is important, but that shouldn’t mean it has to be impersonal. Can you think of the last time the atmosphere of a business really made you feel inspired, maybe a little wondrous? What about an entire wall dedicated to letting customers decorate weekly? Perhaps a mini sculpture-building kit given to young diners instead of crayons, or maybe a projector screen with a looping feed of their Instagram fan art? These are all things that would certainly make me as a customer much more invested and engaged with a particular brand.

Pam Woolway is using a simple, every day object to deepen the meaning her poetry has for people – that proves art can be just as effective and appreciated outside of a museum or gallery. We are proud to be a part of her creativity, and it’s reminded us to enjoy the art surrounding us in everyday life…especially if it happens to be a poem on a humble green GuestCheck.

If you’d like to see more of Pam’s work and learn more about her, please check out these links:

You can also reach out via email or Instagram:

Instagram: @shortorderpoet

Topics: Community Outreach, GuestChecks