Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Poetry and progress

Four days after the US 2016 election, Brainpickings Maria Popova, in an inspiring act of leadership, teamed up with the Academy of American Poets for an emergency pop-up reading of poetry they called Verses for Hope.

Here was my offering...

A triumph

What can triumph from this
we shudder

The rumblings of the earth
forewarned it
A little bird had told us
but it took a ballot box
of a dirty dilemma
to jolt us from our
toxic slumber

Stumbling and fumbling
in the darkness
created by our own hands
we shrug, sulk, snarl and shout
while the lanky melancholic poet
quietly leaves the table
as he said he would
leaving us wondering about
cracks in everything
and questioning
sorrow and redemption

Squinting towards the light
not yet convinced it is
bright or bold enough
to break through this
bleak blackness
There amongst the rubble
we notice
that for every breath in
there is a breath out
And as the leaves fall
and the days constrict
on one side
the blossom lifts
and the days lengthen
on the other
and we are comforted
that perhaps miracles
do come

We just have to go
to that edge
peel off our masks
unleash our chains
prick our ears
and stand there
And even if
we sweat and squirm
we hold our nerve
trusting in the treaty
between ourselves
of open hearts
of open minds
of open will

This will be our triumph

We turn to poetry to help us make sense of what is going on in our lives. The things we can’t seem to understand, explain or articulate - poetry seems to nail.   In writing it, reading it, listening to it, our imaginations are stirred and our feelings of belonging, heightened.  Bridging our inner and outer worlds, it is the language of the soul.

Leadership and poetry have long connected. Many a leader has taken its guiding hand, to gain clarity from complexity, to provide comfort or challenge, to celebrate and urge us towards truth and betterment.  In essence, to progress in our humanity.  John F. Kennedy offered “When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses”.

Through my own lens, it seems poetry is popping up increasingly in the workplace.  It ranges from the unspoken, quiet murmurings and underground ways, to being actively encouraged and nurtured. Whether marketing are using the haiku form to sharpen their key messages or teams are expressing their views on the most recent change through sharing their poems, there is transformation.

We have much to thank, poets like David Whyte for, who have boldly stepped into the corporate world to show how poetry can create new conversations and improve working lives.  In doing so, Whyte has been fundamental to the development of workplace spirituality as a mainstream organizational issue.  As he reminds us in the beautiful audio,The Heart Aroused we are responsible for who we are, how we live our lives and for creating the organizations in which we work.  

We have seen poetry’s impact on the leadership programmes we run. Bringing it into the experiential mix, leaders benefit from a fresh self awareness. They grow and develop in a way only poetry seems to engender.  A memorable moment was witnessing how a Finance Director tapped into his own depths, and found new ways of expressing himself in a tender poem.  In courageously sharing it amongst his peers, he found an inner source of power he hadn’t felt before.  Going beyond his comfort of control and logic, and revealing his vulnerability in a safe and creative way, only added to his credibility.   In opening up in this way, he inspired others to do the same, generating more real and meaningful conversations, spawning higher levels of empathy and sparking ideas and connections.  One of his colleagues in a previous cohort, also counts his new found identity as a poet as one of his key learnings and outcomes.  He said he has become the one amongst his friends who writes poems to help others. In work he has found a way to be his authentic self.

Now that’s poetry.

 Photo (own). Part of the 'Big City Life' project Tor Marancia, Roma

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