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10 Great Poems About Work


Need a few poems to read for Poetry at Work Day, or any day at all? Check out these 10 great poems about work. Then maybe write a few of your own.

I Hear America Singing • Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
          singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or
          at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of
          the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows,
          robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Boss • Glynn Young

Stares at the corner where
two glass walls meet, almost
the exact point where the sun
sets, caught in the rise
of his people asking, probing
how and more and the descent
of his own boss seeking cuts.
He chooses the way
he’s been taught, looking
upward, knowing there’s little
reward in the daily, where
life is.

Sending Flowers • Hannah Stephenson

The florist reads faces, reaches into the mouths of customers.
Turns curled tongues into rose petals,

teeth clinking against one another into baby’s breath.
She selects a cut bloom, a bit of leaf,

lays stem alongside of stem, as if building a wrist
from the inside. She binds them

when the message is right, and sighs at the pleasure
of her profession. Her trade:

to wrangle intensity, to gather blooms and say, here,
these do not grow together

but in this new arrangement is language. The florist
hands you a bouquet

yanked from your head, the things you could not say
with your ordinary voice.

Self-Employed • L.L. Barkat

She is always asking
for more.
More hours making words,
more days finding
the things she loves—
people, art, a good font.
But she gives me
How can I say

Mowing • Robert Frost
What Work Is • Philip Levine
Po’ Boy Blues • Langston Hughes
Calling Him Back From Layoff • Bob Hicok
The Secretary Chant • Marge Piercy
The Instruction Manual • John Ashbery

More Resources on Poetry and Work

Taking Poetry to Work: A Few Good Tricks (3 simple ways to bring poetry to work)
Poetry at Work Day Infographic (don’t miss the chicken and the chocolate chips)
10 Great Articles on Poetry and Work (contests, Wall Street, blacksmithing, cubicle haiku and more)

Photo by Mudgalbharat, Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by L.L. Barkat.


Poetry at Work Business and Poetry Books

Poetry at Work, by Glynn Young, foreword by Scott Edward Anderson

“This book is elemental.”

—Dave Malone


Your Comments

7 Comments so far

  1. L. L. Barkat says:

    Thanks, Maureen. :)

    What do you plan to do for Poetry at Work Day?

  2. Marcy Terwilliger says:

    Sending Flowers by Hannah Stephenson

    Reaches into the mouths of customers. Turns curled tongues into rose petals. The entire poem is so beautiful as you select each piece until it’s finished, baby’s breath, a bit of a leaf. This poem touches my mind of memories, those of one simple bridal bouquet made for my daughter-in-law and the pleasure of her smile.

  3. Marcy Terwilliger says:

    Each day at work comes different for me.
    There’s a book waiting
    Challenge me with a prompt
    Photo’s on the camera
    Need a love touch
    Love drawing fashion gowns
    Color’s in greens and pink
    Spending time with the Father,
    Watching his birds dance.
    Listening to the cats talk
    As birds eat bread crumbs outside.
    Waiting for Spring to come.
    Looking for wild onions
    Seeking out the sun
    Warming up my body
    Not ready for a run.
    Lift our thoughts
    Make us whole
    Winter go away.
    Green spring
    Smell the grass
    Buds on trees,
    That’s my kind of day.


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