One day, I’m going to apply for a patent for Office in a Box. You may have seen it before, and mistaken it for a narrow plastic crate middle schoolers stack in their lockers to keep their textbooks and supplies organized. I no longer have a middle schooler, so I have his discarded crate. Flipped on its side, it is the perfect height to hold my laptop at eye level. The open space beneath it holds my pencil box, notebooks, and a small white sea shell. When I decide I need a change of scenery, I turn the crate upright, slide my laptop inside along with the cables, my wireless keyboard and mouse, and my files, and carry it off to a new location, preferably with windows. Office in a Box.
I work from home. My office is in in the basement. And on days when I’m not on the road adjusting claims, I might spend over 10 hours at the desk, so that change of scenery is sometimes needed.
But even if I don’t want to go to the effort of packing up my Office in a Box, I have options. I have the large oak library desk (stacked with files and papers) with scratches and burn marks and water stains, where I can work to the squeaking cadence of a webbed black desk chair. I have the long, elbow-height counter constructed with an unfinished hollow-core closet door and 2x4s over industrial shelving (stacked with books and notebooks) where I work standing up, shifting my weight from one foot to the other in time with the keyboard tapping. And when I need to read or take a Skype call, I’ll prop myself up on the bed (stacked with folded laundry) with the brown and olive striped comforter. (Yes, my office converts to the guest room when needed.)
Glynn Young says there’s poetry in the workplace. We can bring it, or we can find what’s already there. In chapter 3 of his new book Poetry at Work, he considers the poetry of the workspace, whether it’s a corner office, a cubicle space, or like my workspace, a makeshift office a few steps down from the kitchen:
A workspace contains a certain rhythm and cadence and language and flow and structure, and, well, poetry, that characterizes these places where work gets done. The utilitarian cubicle, for example, might be compared to the minimalist, spare structure of the haiku. The two best speeches I ever wrote were both composed in a cubicle—the spare, simple language of the texts mirrored the sparseness of that workspace. A conference room, by comparison, is a kind of villanelle, where certain things (or lines) get endlessly repeated. (Poetry at Work, p. 32)
I’ve worked on the corporate cubicle farm, every space carefully measured and metered in six square feet (probably iambic). Try putting a guest bed in that little space that never requires the worker to leave his chair, every file and stapler and coffee mug so easily within arm’s reach. My workspace now is a cobbled together combination of spaces—sitting, standing, lying down spaces and those you can pack into a box—where I work an odd combination of jobs from hour to hour, from claim adjusting to writing to illustration and design.
My workspace now, I think, is most like a Cento.
We’re reading Poetry at Work together this month. Are you reading along? In chapter 3, Glynn invites us to look hard at our workspace: at the sounds, smells, lighting, uniquenesses, and then to write a short poem about it. Perhaps you’d share yours in the comments. Other chapters this week considered how to recognize a poet at work, the poetry of the job interview, the poetry of the commute, the poetry of the boss, and even the poetry of PowerPoint and vision statements. Share your thoughts with us in the comments on your favorite chapter, and any poems or observations you wrote along the way.
Join us next week as we continue our discussion. And of course, don’t forget to celebrate Poetry at Work Day on Tuesday, January 14, in your office. Check out our Poetry at Work Day Survival Kit and Resource Table for great ideas to celebrate.
January 8: The Poetry of the Workspace (Introduction – Chapter 7)
January 15: Chapters 8 – 12
January 22: Chapters 13 – 20
Poetry at Work, by Glynn Young, foreword by Scott Edward Anderson
“This book is elemental.”