Poems for Poetry at Work Day: The Five Winners

Last week, we celebrated Poetry at Work Day, and while the White House didn’t pick up our declaration, a lot of people all over the world celebrated with us, including the Scottish Parliament, ABC News and CBS News, university libraries, schools, office conference rooms, and individuals all over Twitter and Facebook. Not bad for something that launched in 2013.

Here at Tweetspeak Poetry, in addition to our declaration, we had a giveaway—submit a poem for Poetry at Work Day, and you might win one of five copies of my new book, Poetry at Work (notice the consistent theme). Twelve poets submitted their work. A few offered multiple submissions, which was okay since the submission fee was a flat rate of zero (find a poetry contest that can boast that!).

The judging criteria were strictly subjective—and not disclosed. I simply had to figure out which five to pick. It turned out to be more of a problem that I anticipated—liked all the poems. (I am not making this up just to make everyone feel good; these were some really good poems, and they need to be submitted to poetry journals, literary magazines, and major poetry publications like Tweetspeak Poetry.) (But I digress.)

The poems moved across the work landscape—newspapers, police departments, school, an office, a kitchen, music, family, the home. Poetry at Work Day threw down the gauntlet, and these poets accepted the challenge and wrote!

It was difficult to pick five, but five I did pick. In no particular order (it was hard enough to get it down to five), here are the five winners, who get their choice of Poetry at Work in their preferred format—print paperback, Kindle, or Nook. (You five, you happy five, you can email your preference to me at gyoung9751@aol.com, and I will contact you through your blog.)

Philip Boiarski, who blogs at Bloodlines, submitted an untitled poem, but I’ve given it a name: “What drove the first ape.” (Yes, I know it’s the first line of the poem; a lot of poets do that.)

What drove that first ape
to hollow the femur
and drill the finger
holes and blow
breath thru
that remnant of death,
the flute of beauty.
Did she think any breath
might be her last.
Do you suppose a drowning
person pays attention
to her/his breathing?
Is there a note, a scream
from a whack on the ass?
Or is it, like an echo,
one repeated breath
since the first?

Jen Rose writes at Jen Writes (speaking of first lines of poems), and submitted this one about an office, which was immediately recognizable. It was untitled, so I gave it a name: “I once had an office.” Yes, I know, I’m being consistent again.

I once had an office
covered in postcards,
concert posters,
and one acrylic award
for some small role
in a big achievement
reminding me
there are no small things.
Now there’s a pencil scrawl
of Stick-Me and Stick-Niece
and little hearts
like fireworks
and a framed photo
of a new family of two
reminding me
there are no small things.

Darlene at Simply Darlene embedded her poem in an illustration her blog (she has a very enagaging writing style, and I didn’t mind one bit reading and scrolling all the way to the bottom to find it. Speaking of consistency, it was also without a title (we have a real trend going here), so I named it—using the first line, of course—“Oranges roll outta bowls.”

Oranges roll outta bowls,
bananas pile high,
granola bars hide inside
glass, lidded jars –
snacktime fuel for home
educated charges, while
husband sits at his
payday desk, tips his
thermos o’ coffee, tea,
or soup, then later
crunches numbers for
dessert, the teach and
the kids swig sugared
words of robert, henry &
sweet, sweet emily.

I hope Darlene appreciates how many times SpellCheck kept trying to capitalize those three names. It was man versus Microsoft technology, and man won, finally.

Laura Brown, who blogs under her own name, submitted a prose poem—and she had a title!

You Shall Know Them by Their Ringtones

Someone has crickets. Someone has a honky-tonk piano. Someone used to have the theme from “The Magnificent Seven.” Denise, who runs the pet food ministry at her church, has barking dogs. Michael, the TV critic, who does not like change, has the classic telephone. Katie, who has the gift of hospitality, has different sounds for different callers. Paul, the quietest among us, has an ascending chromatic scale on the xylophone, volume low. Randal, a Catholic-raised unbeliever who is quick to grab the religion stories, has the classic telephone. Ellis, the Buddhist, has a single chime that sounds clear across the room. Rachel, who used to be the society section editor and left for a nonprofit and came back to be the business editor, has the classic telephone. Doug, the head page designer, who talks sports on Monday mornings and who is sometimes in charge of his young grandson, used to have the Razorbacks fight song, but now he has the “Dive! Dive!” submarine alarm sound because it’s louder and less easy to tune out. When he was going through his divorce, Jay had “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.”

Chris Yokel, who also blogs under his own name, took up a similar theme to Darlene—school. And he had a title, too!


In their neat little rows
ready to be sown,
and I am the intellectual agrarian,
up early to till young minds
scatter seeds of learning,
foster fragile buds of thought
with words wet with encouragement
and careful criticism,
watching with a sense of pride as
my classroom grows green,
til summer scatters them again
to the world.

And there they are, our five winners. Congratulations to everyone who submitted a poem(s). Not to mention titles. It was a great way to celebrate Poetry at Work Day.

And next year, we’ll get that declaration from the White House! (Anyone know a good lobbyist?)

Image by Nanagyei. Sourced via Flickr. Post by Glynn Young, author of the novels Dancing Priest and A Light Shining, and the just-published Poetry at Work (T. S. Poetry Press). 

Enjoy more poetry at work


Poetry at Work Business and Poetry Books
Poetry at Work, by Glynn Young, foreword by Scott Edward Anderson

“This book is elemental.”

—Dave Malone


Buy Poetry at Work Now

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  1. says

    Congratulations to all the winners!

    For those who might not know: Floating Bridge Press has issued a call for submissions for poems about work: “Help Wanted: The Poetry of Work”. The deadline is March 31. Go to floatingbridgepress[dot]org and look for Review #7 info. Elizabeth Austen, who is the new Poet Laureate for Washington, is the guest editor of the issue.

  2. says

    Here are particulars from Elizabeth Austen. Note that she says call is open to anyone.
    Hello, friends–
    I’m guest editing the next issue of Floating Bridge Review – please consider submitting (and please share this widely — the call is open to all poets, not just those in Washington state).

    Help Wanted: The Poetry of Work
    Work – or the lack of it – shapes our personalities, our days, and our health. For some, it defines our status. Floating Bridge Review #7 seeks poems concerned with the interplay of labor and identity: first jobs, lay-offs, job hunting, unemployment, hard labor, happy hour, housework, sex work, volunteer work, retirement, the multiple and never-ending labors of parenthood.

    Submission guidelines:
    E-mail up to three previously unpublished poems as a single Microsoft Word document or single PDF file.
    Put FBR7 SUBMISSION in the subject line of your e-mail and be sure to include your mailing address.
    Send to floatingbridgepress@yahoo.com. No cover letter needed, but please include a brief bio.
    Deadline: March 31, 2014.

    We accept simultaneous submissions, but ask that you notify us immediately if the work is accepted for publication elsewhere.

    Floating Bridge Review is published by Floating Bridge Press: http://www.floatingbridgepress.org/

    Finally, a bit of Wendell Berry to send you on your way:

    “It may be that when we no longer know what to do
    we have come to our real work” (from “The Real Work”)

    Be well,
    Elizabeth Austen

  3. says

    Sir Glynn,

    I do, I really, really do, despise, err, appreciate the SpellCheck. Thank you to the moon and back for enduring the blasted auto-correct box.

    AND thank you for the soon-to-be-in-my-grubby-little-paws book. Yeehaaaw!



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