I read Keats upside down.
It’s not me; it’s the book. Random House bound it that way several decades ago.
But then again, maybe it is me. I’m the kind of person you’d more likely find reading The Contractors’ Blue Book than Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual. And if I’m skimming through Findings, odds are good it’s a medical exam, not Wendell Berry.
I’ve inhabited the prairie dog trailer park of the corporate cubicle, working on the front line and in management for both global and regional companies. Those companies are now my clients. I’m a property and casualty insurance claim adjuster, most at home in the world of tape measures and spreadsheets, contracts and case law. Objective evidence and quantifiable data rule the day. Such abstract conveyors of truth as poetry and art enter the conversation only if the house fire consumes them.
So I’m happy to wink and hold the volume of poems upside down, hoping no one takes too seriously that I enjoy reading and writing poetry myself.
It seems, though, that others far wiser than I have discovered poetry’s needful but long overlooked place in the cubicle and the board room, perhaps a key to restoring the frayed connection between work and the soul of the worker. Or, as David Whyte explains, to “reconcile the left-hand ledger sheet of the soul with the right-hand ledger sheet of the corporate world, a kind of double-entry bookkeeping that can bring together two opposing sides of ourselves normally split by the pressures of work.”
It is with that hope for reconciliation of business and the soul that we invite you to join us for an upcoming four-week discussion of Whyte’s book, The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America. We’ll discover what the confrontation between Beowulf, a 6th century consultant, and Grendel’s mother can still say to us today in the midst of the challenges of 21st century business. And we’ll let Robert Frost, Pablo Neruda, T.S. Eliot and others speak to us of knowledge, fear, failure and success.
Meet us here on March 7 for chapters 1 and 2. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Photo and post by Will Willingham.
Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $5.99— Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In February we’re exploring the theme Red.
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- Adjustments: A Belated Bicentenary Party for John Keats - March 4, 2021