“Poetry is in work, it is work, and it has been there all along.” –Glynn Young
My journey into poetry at work found me in 2004 when I met Julia Darling at a writing workshop for “tired academics.” I was struggling to write my doctorate and a friend and colleague suggested Julia might prove an ally in my quest to close the gap between the professional world and patient world in health care. My friend was right, but I am sure neither of us anticipated how the next 10 years would turn out.
I didn’t get my PhD, but instead pursued and earned a Creative Writing MA and launched a regular poetry workshop at a local hospice. I even secured a Twitter handle that reflects a deep and enduring belief in the power of poetry to change the way we work in health care.
Then I came across Glynn Young’s Poetry at Work. Reading his book has been liberating as I have realised that I had thought I needed to keep my poetry and professional life separate. Over the last few months I have begun to see that being a poet in my workplace is a more authentic way of being professional.
In Poetry at Work, Young says he writes poems to help make sense of differences in values and resolve the dissonance he experiences. I do the same and invite others to, as well. Poetry provides comfort and insight during the toughest times and helps make sense of a professional life dedicated to caring for others.
Young’s book includes poetic exercises at the end of each chapter—something that many professionals often find awkward and odd. The looks on people’s faces when I announce that we are going to write a poem are priceless—expressions of horror and fear are frequent. However, some of the most satisfying experiences have come from enabling others to write a poem that means something to them and communicates effectively to others. That shared understanding helps increase compassion—an essential bridge in effective health care.
I recently made the decision to focus my professional life: the poet in me wanted to make more of a difference, and the nurse in me realised that would only happen in health care practice.
“[P]oetry can be found in any and all work,” Young writes, “not only poetry added on or brought from the outside, but intrinsically present, waiting for us to realize it, see it, hear it, read it, and write it.” I have begun to see the poetry intrinsically present in many of the things I do as a nurse and leader. I know this will sustain me over the next few months of transition.
I am now proud to say that I am a nurse who writes poetry, reads poetry, facilitates others and promotes poetry whenever and wherever I can. I have ceased to be apologetic about it, and I seek opportunities to discuss the issues as much as I can. I’m living out what Young describes in Poetry at Work: “They (poets) just need to be given the freedom to do what they do best: help navigate uncharted territory and speak with poetic precision to lead the way.”
Poetry gave me the courage to take the steps needed to move into the workplace and integrate the two—and Poetry at Work affirmed my decision. Only time will tell if this has been the right choice, but one thing I know: poetry will influence many of the decisions I will now make in my new role.
Read more about Poetry at Work™
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