Barkat shared the spotlight with Don Share, editor of Poetry magazine since 2013, and several poets who call Basecamp their work home. We wanted to learn more about the sort of workspace that is friendly to poetic people, so we reached out to two employees who also contributed to the podcast.
Basecamp is an all-in-one site where business teams that work remotely can communicate in a virtual office space. It’s been around for twenty years, growing and changing with technology and the needs of its clients. It continues to do so in this new world of increased remote work due to COVID-19.
Lexi Kent-Monning is part of the customer support team. In the podcast she read Nikki Giovanni’s My First Memory (of Librarians). Other Giovanni poems she loves are I Wrote a Good Omelet and Nikki-Rosa.
Since Basecamp is, itself, a company that functions remotely, she says it attracts people who communicate well through writing.
“I think our support team might be the most poet-heavy, and we’re a big puddle of empaths in that group,” Kent-Monning said.
But it’s not only a place for empaths. Timely communication from a real human is a service Basecamp works hard to provide its clients.
“What we’re doing on support most of the time is trying to solve a problem or uncover a pattern or understand a bigger picture,” Kent-Monning said. Her attraction to writing and reading poetry enables her to do that better.
It’s also just good business. She says that in her training, her boss, Kristin Aardsma (also a poet), used poetic tools to help craft an email. Kent-Monning said Aardsma suggested that “I break one paragraph into two paragraphs in the email I was sending to a user. She thought giving some space to breathe in between pieces of information would be helpful to the user on the receiving end. The mechanics of writing a support email and a poem are super similar for me because of that!”
Want more clarity in your emails, folks? Write more poetry.
Troy Toman leads technical operations at Basecamp, and at the end of the podcast he read the poem we in Tweetspeak-land are now learning By Heart: John O’Donohue’s For One Who Is Exhausted, a Blessing. At the time, Toman was thinking about the busyness of the holiday season, and how this poem invites us to slow down. Who knew the word exhaustion would take on a whole new resonance as 2020 unfolded.
Unlike Kent-Monning, Toman isn’t someone who considers himself into poetry in a traditional way.
“I don’t often block out time specifically for reading poetry. I don’t have a ton of poetry books in my library. Yet, I found [O’Donohue’s] words — and many others as I traced my path back — so deeply meaningful.”
Toman agrees that the remote nature of Basecamp’s team means the majority of their interaction is through the written word.
“Being able to convey thoughts and ideas in writing is critical,” Toman said. “I find poetry really makes me examine words and meanings in a deeper, more intentional way.”
As a technology person, Toman likes poetry that helps him deal with what he calls “unknowns.”
“Much of my operations work involves diving into problems or issues where the approach is unknown,” he said. “I just feel like that ability to recognize a pattern or an experience that comes from somewhere else that is similar can be valuable.”
Toman likes poems that are less explicit but contain deep emotion, like Joyce Rupp’s Old Maps No Longer Work. Poems like this one assist him because, “it often helps just to know that people have struggled with the emotions inherent in solving complicated new problems.”
Both Kent-Monning and Toman agree poetry should be welcome in the workplace.
“I think poetry should be embraced everywhere people are important,” Toman said. “It is an essential tool for most people trying to understand the world around us. It is a vehicle for learning from others, for working through emotions and for finding inspiration and energy.”
Kent-Monning added, “The sharing of interests gives us more chances to get to know our colleagues and connect in our unique and human ways.” She’s also up for businesses being friendly to all interests — “parents, runners, bakers, knitters, hikers, dog owners. It takes all kinds!”
Browse more Poetry at Work
“Megan Willome’s The Joy of Poetry is not a long book, but it took me longer to read than I expected, because I kept stopping to savor poems and passages, to make note of books mentioned, and to compare Willome’s journey into poetry to my own. The book is many things. An unpretentious, funny, and poignant memoir. A defense of poetry, a response to literature that has touched her life, and a manual on how to write poetry. It’s also the story of a daughter who loses her mother to cancer. The author links these things into a narrative much like that of a novel. I loved this book. As soon as I finished, I began reading it again.”
—David Lee Garrison, author of Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro