Celebrate poetry at work and the day devoted to it for 2023!
In 2014, I hit a wall at work. I was marginalized. I was being paid for work far below my experience and capabilities. Wanting to get up in the morning was increasingly problematic. I made attempts to move to other positions, including one major attempt, but the job was handed off to someone who was a problem in an unrelated division who needed to be moved somewhere. The individual was told to come to me for guidance and mentoring.
It wasn’t the first wall I’d ever encountered in my career, but it was the last one. In the early fall, I told my boss I was retiring in May. Surprisingly, to me at least, the news was not received well. It wasn’t that I was irreplaceable in my job; the work was easy and unchallenging. I never learned why my boss and others were so upset.
I retired in May of 2015, but I didn’t stop working. I did some freelancing, I continued to work for online publications, and I’ve since published three more novels. In 2018, I even returned to my former employer for a three-month freelance stint that became one of the best work experiences I’ve ever had over half a century of working.
Work is an intrinsic part of who we are. And poetry is an intrinsic part of work.
I was only vaguely aware of poetry at work until the day I sat in yet another endless meeting. My mind wandered. And then I heard yet another repetition like all the other repetitions, and something clicked. I could find poetry even in a boring meeting. I started looking and listening. I realized that work, like life, is shot through with poetry. It was everywhere. I was so taken with what I discovered that I wrote a book about it. And Poetry at Work is one of our recommended resources for Poetry at Work Day.
Work has changed dramatically since I retired from my 8:30 to 5 office job. The closing of so many workplaces during the pandemic. The Great Resignation. Zoom meetings. Remote working, even in different parts of the country where your employer is located. The collision and eventual meshing of working from home with childcare and education. And yet, work is still work. The form may have changed, but the content is the same. And the poetry remains.
For Poetry at Work Day 2023, consider writing a poem about the return to the office from working at home. Write about teaching children at home. Compose a poem about how the pandemic both closed and opened opportunities. Or how your work changed. Write about what has happened to how you lead people at work, or how you work with your manager or director.
We offer some free resources to help you. Celebrate Poetry at Work is an e-book specifically designed for poetry at work. Some prompts to get you going are including in Taking Poetry to Work: A Few Good Tricks. We have examples to guide you, with 10 Great Poems about Work. And we have a free Poetry at Work poster. You can post your poems here in the comments section, or you can link them from your own blogs or pages.
Even if you decide not to write a poem about work, you can listen for the poetry that is there. It’s in the creative and mundane, the usual and the exceptional, the boring and the fun. It might lie below the surface, and it might smack you upside the head. It’s often somewhere near the elephant in the room that everyone knows is there but quietly sidesteps.
But it’s there. Find it. Enjoy it. And you might discover how to put it to work.
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
- Poets and Poems: Benjamin Myers at “The Family Book of Martyrs” - January 31, 2023
- Poets and Poems: Laura Mullen and “After I Was Dead” - January 24, 2023
- “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” – An Old Poem, a New Artwork - January 17, 2023