Here at Tweetspeak, we believe poetry and work complement each other — both the work of poetry and the way that poetry is a part of the work most of us do every day. We can hear poetry in the language of the boardroom and in the rhythm of an assembly line. We can find it in our workspaces and on our daily commute. And we can bring poetry to our work and our places of business.
More often than not, poets have participated in the workforce. Ted Kooser, T.S. Eliot, heck, even Geoffrey Chaucer had day jobs. Right here at Tweetspeak headquarters we have an attorney, an engineer, a corporate strategist, home educators, a tutor, even an insurance adjuster. We know that our work informs our writing as much as poetry affects the way we work.
This afternoon, when you get back from the water cooler, take a look at this this list of ten great articles on poetry and work we’ve gathered up from around the web.
Four contemporary poets talk about the intersection of poetry and their day jobs. Dennis O’Driscoll says, “I ‘got a life’ from work; a living which freed me from literary drudgery; access to a distinctive linguistic register; stimulating subject-matter; and the welcome distraction a busy office provides from the obsessive anxieties which bedevil the isolated full-time poet.” Jane Routh adds, “The worst ‘day job’ would be poetry: what would there be to write about?”
The space where we work can be full of poetry. This article explores the rhythms, language and meter of the places where we work. “I have wondered if there is a certain poetry to work space, a certain rhythm and cadence and language and flow and, well, poetry that creates these places where work gets done. A kind of rhetoric for work space—the cubicle as haiku, for example.”
This collection of poems compiled by Poetry Foundation includes selections honoring labor as well as looking for work, underappreciated workers and poets at work. Bob Hicok’s poem ‘Calling Him Back from Layoff‘ is a particularly poignant look at one of the most difficult aspects of work — not having it.
This article looks for ways that we can hear poetry in our work places — in “meetings, annual performance reviews and weekly reports.”
This short essay on the poet’s need to earn a living includes a handful of poems that reflect the occasional boredom of daily work as well as the bitterness and frequent despair that arise from trying to earn and a sustainable living.
This essay by Dana Gioia considers the relative absence of poetry about the modern business experience and corporate landscape. He notes that the poetry that does exist is more an exception than a norm. Gioia observes, “For American poetry what happens on Wall Street or Wilshire Boulevard seems as remote as icebound Zembla.”
Philip Levine compares poems by Walt Whitman and Yusef Komunyakaa, both of which are micro-studies in the work of blacksmithing, one with an eye toward the work and the other revealing conflict between the workers.
Modernhealthcare.com sponsors an annual poetry and work contest, calling for poems about the best work place. See how your work place lines up with this year’s entries.
Marketplace.org featured three poems as part of a weekly feature on poetry and work. In this collection, find poetic observations about work: “Those who over do it, those who under do it, and those who can’t afford not to do it.”
For more information on poetry and work, follow our ongoing series Poetry at Work and watch for details about the upcoming first Poetry at Work Day on January 15. And for further reading, consider these related books:
The Heart Aroused : Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America by David Whyte
What Work Is by Philip Levine
Working Classics: POEMS ON INDUSTRIAL LIFE by Nicholas Coles and Peter Oresik
For a Living: THE POETRY OF WORK by Nicholas Coles and Peter Oresik
Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $2.99— Read a poem a day, become a better writer. In October we’re exploring the theme Wine and Beer.