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Guy Kawasaki Says to Use Poetry in Business


Candy Floss

Guy Kawasaki knows how to use a well-placed rhyme. In an interview about Kawasaki’s book, for instance, he said he wanted to write something that was “really tactical, really practical.”

Rhyming, according to Kawasaki, is serious business. People actually believe rhymed statements are more accurate than unrhymed statements; so if you want to remove psychological “fences” for your customers, you might want to speak in rhymes to ease their minds. (I’m assuming Kawasaki isn’t recommending that we turn into Dr. Seuss, just that we learn how to use… a well-placed rhyme.)

In a similar poetic vein, Kawasaki also recommends three ways to make our business messages “swallowable”: use metaphor, simile, and brevity. Metaphor “[conveys] the meaning of your cause,” while similes “provide a familiar starting point,” and brevity promotes memory and repetition of your message.

Okay, so Kawasaki never quite says, “Use poetry in business.” (That’s me taking poetic license. :) But I think just about anybody can recognize that rhyme, metaphor, simile, and brevity are the tools of poetry.

It turns out, in Kawasaki’s world, that these poetic tools aren’t for lovers. They’re for good business.

So if you ever needed permission to become a student of poetry, this is your official invitation to get intimate with Whitman, Collins, or Wheeler. This is your day to say, “If poetry is good for business, then poetry is good for me.”

As part of your official invitation, I want to give you the chance to revive a dead metaphor in a poem— and post the result here in the comment box by next Friday, April 20th. Then the following week, we’ll feature one poem on our Facebook Wall (and give thanks to everyone who participated).

What’s a Dead Metaphor?

Much of our language is rooted in metaphor (there’s one now… did you catch it? :). Over time, metaphors lose their power, become tired. Here are a few you might recognize:

I cried a river of tears
We hammered out our differences
That kind of thinking is a dead end
She broke the ice at the party

Author Kim Addonizio suggests that we can revive dead metaphors in our poetry, by adding specificity (When you left, I cried the Ganges, I cried the Amazon, I cried the/entire Mississipi…)

Try it out. Take a dead metaphor and get specific with it in a poem. We look forward to your word revival.

Photo by FatMandy. Creative Commons, via Flickr. This post is a modified reprint of a post that first published at Post by L.L. Barkat, author of Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing


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Your Comments

14 Comments so far

  1. And now, I understand why I’ve always found Dr. Seuss so … credible.

  2. L. L. Barkat says:

    Heh. :)

  3. I remember this from earlier…

    Let’s see what I can rustle up before the internet connection takes a swan dive and I’m all outta luck out here in nevernever blogland.


  4. In keeping with the brevity repost activity, here is my lazy woman’s contribution. (And that last statement is no reflection upon LL… me=lazy, her=whatever she wants to be)

    Mind you, I have a few favorite metaphors that I use on a daily basis, the only thing is that mine are a little backwoods, backwards, and unscholarly. In fact, they’ve barely seen the light of day, let alone lived the high-life, so there’s nothing really to worry about in the way of resuscitation…

    1. If I drink caffeinated coffee my body gets rather energized and I zing around like my pants are on fire. Come bedtime I’ll still be a fart in a skillet.

    2. Many years ago I made a pit stop at my Montana cattle-ranching kin’s place. It was lunchtime so I sidled up with the rest of ‘em for some grub. I declined the meat portion of the burger and I tried to explain the definition of “vegetarian.” They just sat slack-jaw and looked at me over their wrinkled noses.

    With a sudden and hard slap on the table, the lady of the house said, “Well, I reckon she can eat the burger with no burger. Just look at her. If a strong wind comes up she ain’t gonna blow away like her sister.”She then nodded toward my 95-pound sibling.

    Mrs. Rancher Wife continued, “Yep. Darlene’s not like these here skinny ones. She’s built different. She’s strong. She’s a brick outhouse. Just pass her the pickles and tomatoes and I’ll eat her burger.”

    Lovely. Thanks for the body image boost–made me think of that moment when the high school football coach asked me to try-out for the team.

    3. In keeping with the Montana metaphor theme, I’ll let ya in on another one. In fact both #1 this one came from my grandpa. He may have seen the inside of a schoolhouse for only a few elementary years, but he had hard work smarts and knew the value of a sweaty dollar.

    Whenever he would catch me dawdling at a job or him-hawing about a decision, he would say, “Girl, you gotta poop or get off the pot. That’s all there is to it.”

    Oh great, another take-away mental image that made me want to poke out my mind’s eye for years to come.

    Alrighty then, that was more of a How Darlene Got To Be The Way She Is history lesson than a splash in the ole metaphor pool.

    ~ How many metaphors did you rope in that diatribe?


  5. L. L. Barkat says:

    A brick outhouse. Well, that’s a compliment I’m not sure I’d want to lasso for myself :)

  6. Fun! I had so much trouble deciding whether I’d do a Broadway soundtrack, or a Jackson Five album, or Elton John, or… :) Anyway, here it is:

  7. She’s a broken West Side Story soundtrack,
    an LP spinning every minute at thirty-three
    and a third, the needle riding her vinyl groove
    until it hits a nick scratching across “America,”
    skipping the best lines of “Tonight”
    to hiccup past “Officer Krupke.”
    She keeps touting, “I Feel Pretty,” and alarmed
    at how charming she feels,
    she insists she could
    hardly believe
    hardly believe
    hardly believe…

  8. I yelled at my son the other day. Made him cry. Made me feel like the World’s Worst Mother and wish that I would just finally learn to bite my tongue. So I decided to revive that dead metaphor:

    your tongue–
    your lip–
    the inside
    of your cheek
    till it bleeds
    if you have to–

    your jaw–
    your teeth. Grind
    your molars
    to enamel dust
    if you must–

    Only swallow
    the knife-
    edge of the
    cutting word
    that cannot be

  9. L. L. Barkat says:

    Oh, sweet Kimberlee, you make me remember. When my first girl was little I said to a friend one day that I could never imagine thinking a single bad thought about my daughter, could never imagine yelling at her in her whole life. Ever.

    He laughed. Really hard.

    And he was right of course. I swallowed my words, hard.

    You’re a good mama. And even good mama’s have bad days. Love the poem. Love that it was hard for you and that you have tried to mend yourself with words.

    Monica, what a delightful poem! The structure is wonderful, mirroring the meaning, extending the meaning.

  10. This was fun to try! Here’s what I came up with (it’s about the “elephant in the room”):

    He tramples on my azaleas;
    barges right in— no ringing

    the bell or hearty knock—
    and plants himself right beside

    me on the couch. Of course.
    He won’t leave me alone, ribs

    me (ouch!), winks, and nods in
    my direction all afternoon. When

    guests leave, he arises, takes
    a final sip from his teacup, gently

    sets the saucer on the table,
    marches out the room, leaving

    an indentation on the couch–
    the only proof of his appearance–

    that persistent pachyderm who is
    who is now more friend than foe.


  11. alanapaints says:

    trying to catch her name
    dead metaphors drag their feet
    nightfall shuts the gate

  12. L. L. Barkat says:

    Love this, Alana. :)


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    [...] Guy Kawasaki Says to Use Poetry in Business Categories [...]

  2. The Poet of the Workplace | TweetSpeak Poetry - August 21, 2012

    [...] Poets in business hear things others can miss. Every workplace conversation has an interior and overt stream, and it’s usually the poet who hears the interior dialogues before others do, because those interior dialogues are shaped by words and phrases originating in hopes, dreams and fears. [...]

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