Believe me when I tell you that you don’t want to be that guy who a bunch of famous poets—on popsicle sticks, no less—call when they want to have a virtual happy hour. I’ve run a few big virtual events the last couple months. But none of them prepared me for this. To start things off, Countee Cullen set himself up with a virtual background of his library. It was pretty cool, and suddenly everyone had to have one. But first they had to find a background they liked. Couldn’t they just use the galaxy? Or maybe the Golden Gate Bridge? No. Bill wanted Stratford Upon Avon and went into a silent rage when he couldn’t find any photos in Google’s image search that didn’t have a car parked out front.
Longfellow kept asking if we thought his bedroom would do well on Rate My Skype. Sylvia. Well, okay. Sylvia. Then Basho and Kobayashi Issa muttered something in what sounded like 17 syllables and went off into a Breakout Room by themselves. Buson stayed but said the other guys thought everyone else was using too many words. We had to remove Poe from the chat at one point. He gave new meaning to the idea of “Zoom bombing” and kept going on about a “big swinging blade.”
And Emily was the absolute worst. She went outdoors for the call, right in front of her house that she rarely leaves otherwise. “You’re on Zoom, Emily,” we kept reminding her. “It’s virtual. You don’t need to mask for us.” She just looked at us all pixelated and enigmatic, and said “It is better to be the hammer than the anvil,” like that was supposed to mean something. The wind was terrible and her noise-cancelling headphones didn’t work. She kept fiddling with the mute button, so everything she said was punctuated just like her poems.
This is what happens when Take Your Poet to Work Day occurs during a pandemic, when people who are not used to working at home are still there. These folks are used to being at their university. Or at a theatre. Or at Robert Lowell’s house. Anywhere but home, with a webcam staring them in the eye.
Funny thing is, our ready-for-work poets are as ready as anyone ever has been for working from home and Zoom meetings. They’re already dressed just from the waist up. We also know that not everyone is working from home. Many of our essential workers still have to go out, and when you do, we hope you’ll take along a poet today. You can choose from our full collection below.
And just in time for the pandemic, we’ve released a new accessory this year. Whoever you choose to take along with you, if you go further than your house, please be sure they put on a mask. It’s all ready for you to cut, color and tie on to your favorite poet.
Take Your Poet to Work this year promises to look a little different, but to continue as it has since 2013 to bring delight and inspiration to workplaces around the world.
Browse our full collection of ready-for-work poets:
New releases for 2020:
The folks who’ve been with us all along:
T. S. Eliot
Edgar Allan Poe
The Haiku Masters: Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, and Kobayashi Issa
William Butler Yeats
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Jorge Luis Borges
Rosalía de Castro
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Because you can never have too many poets in your lunch box (or your desk drawer), we also do a school-year celebration in April—Take Your Poet to School Week—with some favorites for the younger (and younger-at-heart) poetry readers: Shel Silverstein, Ogden Nash, Robert Louis Stevenson and the always delightful Mother Goose.
Now, get your scissors, your glue, and your Zoom password, and let’s get the Take Your Poet to Work Day party started!