The Poetry of Names at Work …
It’s Poetry at Work Day, and I find myself thinking about names in the workplace.
I’ve been long fascinated with the names of characters in the works of Charles Dickens. Many of them are descriptive of the characters they represent. Some he made up out of whole cloth. And some were borrowed, or stolen, from the names of real people. “Pickwick,” for example, came from the name of the owner of a coach firm in Bath. “Oliver Twiste” was the name of a real person. Dickens borrowed, and sometimes barely disguised, the names of friends, acquaintances, neighbors, and people mentioned in newspapers.
The names of these characters often contain their own poetry. While reading a paper from 1917 on the origins of the names of Dickens’ characters, I began to think about the names, and the poetry of names, of people I’ve known over more than four decades of work life. My own last name likely started life a millennium or two ago to differentiate a father from a son, or an older and younger brother.
Young, or the German it’s derived from (Junge), is rather prosaic. But when I consider some of the names of people I’ve worked with over the years, their names suggest and almost cry out for a poem. I understand Dickens much better, knowing that he heard the rhyme, the music, and the poetry in the names of people he met and knew.
What might be written about a Duckett, Snell, Scrimpshire, Bann, Pate, Driver, Stockwell, or Griffin? How about a Sparkman, a Bishop, a Hussey, a Crosson, a Wassell, a Struckman, a Needleman, or an Archer? Or a Fort, a Rapp, a Fetters, and a Hoppin. A Hartman and a Pierle. I’ve worked with a Broughton, a Boeger, a Liberato, a Marvel, a Cannon, an Isham, a Fullinwider, a Harness, a Stokes, a Kenworthy, and a Whittum.
The poetry at work is not only in the work that’s done; it’s also in the names of the people doing the work.
Looking at the names of people in the workplace is one way to celebrate Poetry at Work Day. Other ways abound as well. We offer a free book full of inspiration, tips, and tools. We have a few good tricks that might help. Tweetspeak Poetry has published 10 Great Poems about Work that might provide some inspiration. I have a few personal favorites about poetry and work: “My God, It’s Full of Stars by Tracy Smith; Toads” by Philip Larkin; and Digging by Seamus Heaney. My book Poetry at Work suggests many ways you can find poetry in the workplace, from the poetry of PowerPoint to the poetry of retirement.
You can also consider writing a poem, or poems, about Zoom meetings and working remotely.
Work, in its many manifestations, occupies a considerable part of our lives. It’s not walled off from creativity, inspiration, art, or poetry. Look for it, write about it, celebrate it, and come back here to tell us about it.
Photo by Tweetspeak Poetry. Post by Glynn Young.
How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem)—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Anthology included.
“I require all our incoming poetry students—in the MFA I direct—to buy and read this book.”
—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish
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