Poetry at Work Day: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013

poetry and work

William Carlos Williams (1883 – 1963) was a doctor in Rutherford, New Jersey. He was also a poet. Not only did he see no incongruity between the practice of medicine and writing poetry, he often used his experiences as doctor as subjects for poems. Consider this one:

By William Carlos Williams

They call me and I go.
It is a frozen road
past midnight, a dust
of snow caught
in the rigid wheeltracks.
The door opens.
I smile, enter and
shake off the cold.
Here is a great woman
on her side in the bed.
She is sick,
perhaps vomiting,
perhaps laboring
to give birth to
a tenth child. Joy! Joy!
Night is a room
darkened for lovers,
through the jalousies the sun
has sent one golden needle!
I pick the hair from her eyes
and watch her misery
with compassion.

Here at Tweetspeak Poetry, we think that if it was good enough for Williams, Walt Whitman (patent office), Wallace Stevens (insurance executive), T.S. Eliot (banker), Geoffrey Chaucer (diplomat), Marianne Moore (library assistant), Dana Gioia (corporate beverage division), Robert Burns and Wendell Berry (farmers), and countless others, then the idea of poetry at work can work for the rest of us.

We believe there is poetry to be found in the workplace. We’ve found it ourselves. I’ve even written a poem about work meetings and conferences, and if you can write about meetings you can write about anything. And we’ve solicited poems about work spaces.

Work happens everywhere. So does poetry. It’s time to put the two together and see what happens.

We’re declaring that Tuesday, January 15, 2013 is the first Poetry at Work Day™.

How might we celebrate Poetry at Work Day?

Read a favorite poem to your co-workers or employees.

Write a poem about your work space.

Have your students write a poem for a class assignment.

Invite a local poet to speak in your workplace.

Have a break time for poetry—five minutes to read a poem.

Print and leave poems on the tables in the cafeteria at work.

Volunteer to read a poem at your child’s school.

Create a special-edition employee newsletter on the intranet site, with interviews with employees about their favorite poems, original work-related poems by employees, and fun facts about poets.

Sponsor a poetry-themed potluck luncheon between the hours of noon and 2:00 p.m., and include a drawing for a poetry-related prize.

Submit your suggestions for Poetry at Work Day to Tweetspeak Poetry (editor@tspoetry.com) or leave them in the comment box below and we’ll post them here at the site.

And start thinking about all the ways you can connect poetry and work. Getting ready for work. Commuting. Teaching the first class or subject of the day. Chasing after two-year-olds across the kitchen. Servicing the furnace for winter.

Poetry is all around us. And it’s hard at work.

Photograph by SDPD. Sourced via Flickr. Poetry at Work™ post by post by Glynn Young, author of Dancing Priest and the forthcoming novel A Light Shining..


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  1. says

    A couple other ideas I don’t think I’ve shared yet:

    — Explore non-traditional work spaces, such as dance studios, writing workshops, artists’ studios, a theatre. It would be fun to uncover the “hidden” places where your employees “work” when they’re not at the office. Make it into a contest for “most unusual workplace”.

    — Celebrate workers in a job you don’t have and present the employees with a poem. So, for example, if you work in an office, write a poem about the people who help you at Trader Joe’s or Safeway or Wegman’s or Whole Foods. Ask the manager to gather the workers at a particular hour and allow you to read aloud your poem.

    – – Write a story for your employee newsletter about clients’ favorite poets or poems.

  2. says

    Thought of a couple of others:

    — If your company has multiple locations, plan a Moving Poets event, in which a group of invited local poets make the rounds.

    — Do a Poets’ Happy Hour at close of work, featuring past or current poets’ favorite drinks (someone will have to do a little research). Make it a cash bar to defray costs. Encourage awareness by getting attendees to guess the poets’ drinks; award one free one to the first person to give the correct guess. Responsible drinking only. (For obvious reasons, this may have to be switched from booze to teas or cocoa; it’s January, after all!)

    — Have employees volunteer to read their favorite poems at a senior citizens’ residence, and prepare an ode to their caregivers.

  3. says

    there is poetry everywhere
    feel the rhythm of the day
    play with your work
    and work with your play
    street lights go from red to green
    with yellow in between
    swings sway as children play
    people talk and eat
    while walking down the street
    printers print
    fingers move
    phones ring
    get in the groove
    is there

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