I recall that 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 it 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.


Poetry and leadership

We turn to poetry to help us make sense of what is going on in our lives. Those things we can’t seem to understand, explain or articulate?. Well, poetry seems to nail them.   In writing, reading, and listening to it, our imaginations are stirred. And our feelings of belonging are 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. Whether that be to gain clarity from complexity. Or to provide comfort. To challenge or to celebrate. For sure, to 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. Where power corrupts, poetry cleanses”.

Poetry in the workplace

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.  He has shown how poetry can create new conversations and improve working lives.  And this has been fundamental to the development of workplace spirituality as a mainstream organisational issue.  As he reminds us in the beautiful audio, The Heart Aroused  we are responsible for who we are. For how we live our lives. And for creating the organisations 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 evolve in a way only poetry seems to engender.

A memorable moment was witnessing how a Finance Director tapped into his own depths.  In doing so, he 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. The conversations got more meaningful and real.  Higher levels of empathy were felt.  And ideas and connections sparked.

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.


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