Welcome to Poetry at Work

When it came, it came as a BFO – a blinding flash of the obvious.

I was working in communications for a Fortune 500 company. A large portion of the day-to-day work was meetings. We had a team-based culture, and to our work, our teams had to meet.

The teams, and the meetings, proliferated. We had departmental meetings. We had cross-functional meetings. We had committee and subcommittee meetings. We had telephone meetings, video meetings, and online chat session meetings. We had one-on-one meetings. We had staff meetings. We had briefing sessions, strategy discussions, and crisis planning meetings. We often had meetings to plan meeting agendas.

Poetry at Work mainI often wondered if the curse placed upon Adam and his work for eating of the Tree of Knowledge possibly included meetings.

One day, sitting in yet another meeting, I heard what sounded like repetition. People around the table were having a discussion, and I realized I had heard the same discussion before, with the same arguments, the same supporting evidence, the same objections. I kept hearing the discussion as a refrain, or a chorus for a song or hymn.

Just like that, I walked into the poetry of the workplace. I didn’t even know poetry existed in the workplace, and yet there it was. How had I not seen this before, me, a speechwriter who often read poetry while writing a speech? That question surprised me as well, because it was clear that I had been unknowingly or unwittingly employing poetry to do my work. It wasn’t a work tool; it was the actual music that made the workplace work.

Another way to say it is, the workplace has a literary life.

I began to write some articles, for my own blog and for a blog site that no long exists, The High Calling. I also wrote articles on poetry at work for the online poetry publication Tweetspeak Poetry. After a couple of the years, the Tweetspeak editor said the articles needed to be expanded into a book. And so a small volume call Poetry at Work was published almost five years ago.

The book tells a story of my own experiences at work. While most of us don’t work in communications, we do work for or with organizations. It’s my argument in the book that poetry is intimately involved in the “what” and the “how” of our work, that you can do practical things to help discover poetry at work, and that your work will benefit because of it. Exploring the literary life of our work will help us do our work better.

The book has 20 short chapters. Starting next Monday here at Literary Life, we’ll post a short discussion of the topics covered in those chapters, with suggestions for practical things we can do. The discussion will include our Facebook community as well. Consider joining us.

Related: Tomorrow, Jan. 8, is Poetry at Work Day, a celebration that’s been held annually since 2013. You can find resources for Poetry at Work Day at Tweetspeak Poetry.


glynn-young-e1535760697686Glynn Young is the fiction editor at Literary Life.

He is an award-winning speechwriter and public relations executive and is a Fellow of the Public Relations Society of America and a member of the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame. He blogs at Faith, Fiction, Friends. Glynn is the author of three published novels in the Dancing Priest series – Dancing Priest (2012), A Light Shining (2013), Dancing King (2017), and Dancing Prophet (2018). He is the author of the non-fiction book Poetry at Work. He is also a contributing editor at Tweetspeak Poetry.

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