Holly Painter is much more than just a few descriptive words, but if one were to try she could be summed up as a 29-year-old, gay poet who works as a copy editor and volunteers with kids.
While that description may sound needlessly specific, it actually also applies to someone else — Holly Painter.
One Holly Painter lives in the Forest City and is, among other things, director of the London Poetry Slam. The other Holly Painter grew up in Detroit, but currently lives in Singapore.
The two artists came across each other online and as a result have dubbed each other email doppelgangers. After all, they do end up exchanging a lot of misdirected emails.
After corresponding electronically for three years, the two finally had the opportunity to meet face-to-face on Wednesday (Sept. 24) as the Not-London Holly passed through the Forest City on the way from Detroit to Buffalo.
“I mean why not meet her? Now I live in Singapore and it is so infrequently I am here; we had to do this,” the visiting Holly said. “I have been in Singapore, New Zealand, California, but for the first 18 years of my life we were within a couple hours of each other and we never met. And so we should, because it is weird and I like that.”
It was Not-London Holly that first came across her Canadian counterpart when she was complimented on a poem about female genital mutilation. As she hadn’t written any such poem, “that’s not the sort of thing you forget writing,” Not-London Holly knew something wasn’t quite right.
Then someone mentioned to her parents they saw one of our Holly’s videos and thought it was their daughter performing — this despite the fact the two women actually look nothing alike.
“I said, ‘How could you not recognize me?’ They said it was dark, but the voice did sound a bit different. Then I also started getting her emails,” Not-London Holly said. “So then I poked around and found Holly.”
The email mix-ups are hardly surprising as the online presence of the two Holly Painters is just as confusing as their in-person coincidences.
Not-London Holly’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org while London Holly’s is email@example.com. Even their personal websites are easily confused with Not-London Holly’s being www.hollypainter.com and London Holly’s being www.hollypainterpoetry.com.
“It is a little surreal; I suppose it’s not totally surprising someone has your name,” London Holly said. “Poetry for me is a way to connect with other people so it is sort of interesting, generally I would do that in person, but online we were able to find each other.”
Not-London Holly jokingly admits to being “a little pissed” her email doppelganger was out there. London Holly also expressed some momentary discomfort as both women are using the Internet as a marketing tool and it is tough enough make a living from poetry without having someone else trying to do the same thing.
Of course, Not-London Holly points out the Internet isn’t always a helpful tool in clearing up confusion either.
“I used to dominate the first page of a Google search, but now if you search for Holly Painter, poet, you get a smattering that appears to be the same person, because why would there be two?” Not-London Holly said. “Part of the reason why people can confuse us is because we have so many things the same and the more you pile on, the more people think that it can’t be a coincidence, we really must be the same person.”
London Holly hopes the two women can continue their relationship beyond the occasional breakfast by undertaking an art project together.
Admittedly, she doesn’t know quite what that might look like, but London Holly said it could be some kind of poetry or art project that involves other email doppelgangers. If the two Holly Painters could meet through the Internet, then surely others have found themselves in the same situation where they have been connected through technology.
“If we can find them, ask them to explore something else they have in common, have them present that side-by-side somehow in a blog or something; it is something I was thinking about,” London Holly said. “I always like those art projects that start out as something small and grow into something bigger.”