For years we have talked about business men who are closet poets.
Wallace Stevens by day was a Connecticut insurance executive, but -- by day and
night -- he was an accomplished poet. These days we find many CEOs who write poetry
and even more who love it. We suspect, too, that you will be seeing more poetry in
business documents, as men and ladies of substance try to defy the world of spin that puts
such a pall on discourse throughout the darkened world. Poetry, for sure, is the
best way we've got of banishing euphemism and the world of words without meaning.
94. -new- Marry Me?
Edgar Guest’s “Bachelor Soliloquy,” sings of marriage with mixed praise. This Poet Laureate of Michigan and prolific spinner of verse brought a lot of Midwestern tongue in cheek to his task:
“To wed, or not to wed; that is the question;
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The bills and house rent of a wedded fortune,
Or to say “nit” when she proposes,
And by declining cut her. To wed; to smoke
No more; And have a wife at home to mend
The holes in socks and shirts
And underwear and so forth. ’Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To wed for life;
To wed; perchance to fight; ay, there’s the rub;
For in that married life what fights may come,
When we have honeymooning ceased
Must give us pause; there’s the respect
That makes the joy of single life.
For who would bear her mother’s scornful tongue,
Canned goods for tea, the dying furnace fire;
The pangs of sleepless nights when baby cries;
The pain of barking shins upon a chair and
Closing waists that button down the back,
When he himself might all these troubles shirk
With a bare refusal? Who would bundles bear,
And grunt and sweat under a shopping load?
Who would samples match; buy rats for hair,
Cart cheese and crackers home to serve at night
For lunch to feed your friends; play pedro
After tea; sing rag time songs, amusing
Friendly neighbors. Buy garden tools
To lend unto the same. Stay home at nights
In smoking coat and slippers and slink to bed
At ten o’clock to save the light bills?
Thus duty does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of matrimony
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of chores;
And thus the gloss of marriage fades away,
And loses its attraction.”
But here’s even a funnier take on the same subject:
O wed, or not to wed;--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in a man to suffer
The slings and sorrows of that blind young archer;
Or fly to arms against a host of troubles,
And at the altar end them. To woo--to wed--
No more; and by this step to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand hopes and fears
The single suffer--'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To woo--to wed;--
To wed--perchance repent!--ay, there's the rub;
For in that wedded state, what woes may come
When we have launched upon that untried sea
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes celibacy of so long life;
For who would bear the quips and jeers of friends,
The husband's pity, and the coquette's scorn,
The vacant hearth, the solitary cell,
The unshared sorrow, and the void within,
When he himself might his redemption gain
With a fair damsel. Who would beauty shun
To toil and plod over a barren heath;
But that the dread of something yet beyond--
The undiscovered country, from whose bourne
No bachelor returns--puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of!
Thus forethought does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And numberless flirtations, long pursued,
With this regard, their currents turn awry
And lose the name of marriage.
"The Bachelor's Soliloquy" is reprinted from One Hundred Choice Selections. Ed. Phineas Garrett
93. -new- Dana Gioia
It’s a relief to have businessman and poet Dana Gioia essay on the standoff between business and poetry. We have long marveled at the wonderful ways certain scientists, particularly physicists, deal with the analogies between their world of science and the realm of the lyric. Einstein, some of us know, exchanged poetry with a number of people. And we enjoy Gioia on Business and Poetry:
“For some American poets, then, business was just one more way of surviving. While it was not the career that any of them originally wanted, it did support them until that other, more difficult career became reality. Let the naïve think that the support they needed was only financial. Certainly a job in business paid the bills, but it also provided each poet with more than money. At least outwardly, it gave direction to his life, providing him with a sense of place and purpose in his society. It gave him attainable goals—raises, promotions, pensions—in contrast to the seemingly unattainable goals of his artistic life. (Witness Eliot’s pride at each of his promotions in the Lloyd’s Bank international department during his early London years.) The routines of office life could be anaesthetizing, but this very feature also had it advantages for a poet. The pattern each job imposed on his life helped numb the anxiety he felt between poems, in those long, dry periods when it seemed he would never write again. For a job is more tangible than talent. It can’t vanish suddenly the way that inspiration often seems to. In short, business provided these men with the same security and satisfaction that many of their contemporaries found in teaching. Young poets chose between the two careers looking for the same rewards. Which direction they took was ultimately a matter of temperament and values.” (8/28/13)
92. The Japanese Haiku
The Japanese not only have elegant fast trains and fast food (sushi). But fast poetry as well. This obsession with fast speaks to a secret of the Japanese economy—doing a lot with less in a hurry.
With a notebook in hand, a boy writes haiku on a ginko, or a haiku walk, at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.
Do you know what the worlds shortest form of poetry is? It is haiku, which was born in Japan. Haiku is a short poem, consisting of just three lines, but it can capture natural scenery or scenes from daily life and even tell a story. It is popular around the world as a style of literature in which anyone, both adults and children, can freely express themselves and enjoy creating a poem.
Expressed in 5-7-5 Syllables
The Japanese haiku is written in 17 syllables, broken down into 5-, 7- and 5-syllable portions. In Japan, there was a traditional form of collaborative poetry in which one person writes a 17-syllable (5-7-5) opening poem, to which another person adds a 14-syllable poem consisting of two 7-syllable portions. Then another 17-syllable poem is added, and so forth. Haiku was born when the first 5-7-5 syllable portion was separated and became independent. The famed haiku master Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) refined this 5-7-5 poem style and elevated haiku to an art form.
Furuike ya The ancient pond
Kawazu tobikomu A frog jumps in,
Mizu no oto The sound of the water.
(English translation by Donald Keene)
A portrait of famous haiku poet Matsuo Basho. The Basho Museum, Koto ward, Tokyo
This is a famous haiku piece written by Basho. It is about a scene in which a frog jumps into an ancient pond, making a sound. Basho wrote a haiku about a scene which had nothing special about it. However, as a leading work by Basho, it has been translated and published in many languages around the world.
Japan has four distinct seasons, and its climate changes dramatically from season to season. Haiku, having been born in Japan, has a rule that a haiku must have a kigo, or a season word, so that readers can tell which season it is talking about. Kigo can be the names of insects or animals which symbolize the season, or natural phenomena, festivals or other seasonal events. The frog in the poem above by Basho spends the winter underground and comes out in spring. Therefore, it is a spring kigo.
The ya in Furuike ya is called kireji, or a cutting word. Kireji stops the flow of a verse for a moment, creating a deliberate pause between verses. It is an important technique to give the reader time to imagine not only the picture of an ancient pond but also the silence surrounding it. In English haiku, kireji is sometimes expressed by a dash or three dots.
91. Living with a Little Imperfection
We all know people who are manic about perfection. They, in fact, do not realize that perfection itself is flawed because it is so out of touch with both the universe and with the nature of man. Errors dot our lives and add individuality to what otherwise would be a boring sameness. As the poem below hints, errors reek of humanity and sometime shine with divinity. A printer or two has already written to us about this poem, very much remembering the typos of a lifetime. The old style typesetting with hot lead had just enough rough edges and singularity to verify all the meanings, obvious and hidden, contained in this verse.
therefore also divine.
I, Chief Printer
having worked fifty-
seven years at my trade,
and served five years
of the Holliston
being of sound mind
though near death,
leave this testimonial
concerning the nature
of printers' errors.
First: I hold that all books
and all printed
errors, obvious or no,
and that these are their
most significant moments,
not to be tampered with
by the vanity and folly
of ignorant, academic
Second: I hold that there are
three types of errors, in ascending
order of importance:
One: chance errors
of the printer's trembling hand
not to be corrected incautiously
by foolish professors
and other such rabble
because trembling is part
of divine creation itself.
Two: silent, cool sabotage
by the printer,
the manual laborer
have at times taken this
not to be corrected
censoriously by the hand
of the second and far
more ignorant saboteur,
the textual editor.
from the touch of God,
divine and often
of whole books by
nearly unnoticed changes
of single letters
sometimes meaningful but
about which the less said
by preemptive commentary
Third: I hold that all three
sorts of error,
errors by chance,
errors by workers' protest,
and errors by
are in practice the
same and indistinguishable.
for thirty-seven years,
and cooperative Master
of the Holliston Guild
being of sound mind and body
though near death
urge the abolition
of all editorial work
from all textual editing
to leave what was
as it was, and
as it became,
except insofar as editing
is itself an error, and
90. Why Bukowski Hung Out in Bars
Charles Bukowski opines on the economy and America from his barstool in this citation from Today in Literature:
Charles Bukowski was born on this day in 1920. The excerpt below is from "Something for the Touts, the Nuns, the Grocery Clerks and You"; the refrain of the poem is "we have everything and we have nothing," though these lines stress only the one, more Bukowski side:
and nothing, and nothing, the days of
the bosses, yellow men
with bad breath and big feet, men
who look like frogs, hyenas, men who walk
as if melody had never been invented, men
who think it is intelligent to hire and fire and profit
men who stand in front of
windows 30 feet wide and see nothing
and nothing, getting your last paycheck
at a harbor, at a factory, at a hospital, at an
aircraft plant, at a penny arcade, at a
barbershop, at a job you didn't want
income tax, sickness, servility, broken
arms, broken heads all the stuffing
come out like an old pillow
89. Lyric Coaches—The Two Mikes
"When USA Rugby began looking for a coach after the World Cup last fall, it had hundreds of applicants but opted last month for Tolkin, 44, who along with lecturing on sonnets has built a remarkably successful rugby program at Xavier High School in Chelsea." Mike Tomlin, winning coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is known, too, for reciting a poem now and again and for being a closet intellectual. Could it be that the feet on the field have something to do with the feet that are fundamental to classical poetry?
88. Ford Motor's Flirtation with Poetry
On December 9, 1955, American poet Marianne Moore submitted the last of the names that she had contracted to provide to the Ford Motor Company for the new car they were about to launch. This labor had begun six weeks earlier, at the behest of David Wallace, the sociology Ph.D. who had been hired by Ford to conduct the search, and who had written to Moore with his despair:
Over the past few weeks this office has confected a list of three hundred-odd candidates which, it pains me to relate, are characterized by an embarrassing pedestrianism. We are miles short of our ambition. And so we are seeking the help of one who knows more about this sort of magic than we....
Moore was almost a cult figure in America during the 50s and 60s, known as much for her love of baseball (sometimes throwing the first pitch) and prize fights (sometimes dining with Cassius Clay), as for her Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry. What Ford wanted was a car name that "flashes a dramatically desirable picture in people's minds," from a woman who seemed to know mainstream America. What they got was "Anticipator," "Thunder Crester," "Pastelogram," "Intelligent Whale," "The Resilient Bullet," "Mongoose Civique," "Andante con Moto," "Varsity Stroke" and then, as her very last try for the name magic, "Utopian Turtletop."
The Mooremobile was not to be, and Ford returned to its old, pedestrian route
Ford wound up with the Edsel, a failing name for a car failure.
----Today in Literature
Akai Hana, a restaurant in Carrboro, North Carolina, stages an annual haiku contest. A few winners are banal, but occasionally poetry makes itself heard. One has struck a chord with us:
Mourning Dove slipped through
The surface of the river,
Reflecting lost love.
86.Not a Palindrome
Mr. Peter Parsons of the Philippines who summers in the south of Spain captures the present global mood where all certainty about the self and the universe have been wiped away:
I cannot write a poem.
I cannot write a word.
I know nothing.
I am mute.
I once knew everything.
I was everything.
I was a poet.
85. The Lady Smiled
You’ve heard of a Bronx cheer. Well, Colin Goedecke, a New York business writer, gives us a Manhattan cheer wherein he welcomes a new citizen and toasts the Statue of Liberty along with all of Manhattan on the Fourth of July. His “The Lady Smiled” reminds us that the Fourth in Manhattan is so special because the chorus for it sounds all day long. It’s not just an evening gala:
The Lady Smiled
for a friend on becoming an American citizen
When you took your oath to life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness
today, the statue
of the colossally copper-clad lady
standing since 1886
at New York’s door
with her sunlit torch of gold,
smiled. And as she smiled,
ships of all shapes
and sizes and ages,
especially ferries and tugs,
blew whistles and horns
sky-high and bass-low.
And bells on bicycles
and church towers,
from the Battery to Gramercy
rang clearly, and joyfully.
All to salute you
and your declaration of independence,
your pledge to pursue the possibilities
and great freedoms
that come with being an American;
that belong to us as citizens;
who, us among them, welcome you
today with broad stripes and bright stars.
84. Lyrical Vorwerk
Vorwerk of Wuppertal Germany turns out the most creative annual reports on earth, year after year. That honor was long held by Litton Industries which in its early days had an extraordinary, colorful public relations chief called Crosby Kelly who put together a string of spellbinders in alliance with the effervescent designer Robert Miles Runyan But that was ages ago. Vorwerk 2009 includes some worthy poetry, something we had only previously seen, in any meaningful way, in Irish annual reports. Christian Morgenstern’s “Die Nähe” set out the theme of the report:
Nearness wandered in a daze…
Ever in a pointless haze,
Yellow and yellower grew her gaze,
As chill fever her eyes did glaze.
And from Schiller comes “The Lay of the Bell:”
“Blushing, he glides
Where’er she moves
Can transport him.”
83. Places of My Mind, 1966—1996
Richard Lee Francis, professor emeritus of Washington State University in Bellingham, Washington, celebrated his 80th birthday by publishing a book of poems that looked at all the places he had visited for business and pleasure over a lifetime. Cape Cod, Crater Lake in Oregon, Madrid, Grenada, Japan, and a 100 under places come under his eye. We have a special liking for “The Old Quaker Burial Ground, Nantucket.” He recalls:
“Five thousand Quakers swell this gentle mound-
unmarked, except for marble slabs
that lean or lay eroded now,
placed by pious kind, to claim a name
from death’s anonymity.”
By 40 we know what’s a person’s career will be. By 80 we know what his vocation is.
Francis would be a poet. (05-19-10)
82. Classy Class of 60
Peter Parsons, poet of Yale’s Class of 1960, shares with us his poem which, he assures us, has been properly sharpened over 50 years:
The Class of ’60 in Five Seasons
Oh, Yale, small, drunk
today briefly vast
in the autumnal universe.
Our infinite lives dazzle
the dark skies:
flares bursting in the cold night.
Hang out more flags, you guys;
here come the leaves
like green shrapnel: Banzai!
In the lush compost
of our lives
how do we measure time
if not by chance?
What is the fifth season?
He asked as he trundled
Off into the mist.
81. Fisher Poets Gathering
From just a few souls in 1998, the Fisher Poets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon, has grown into quite
a conclave, both of wordspinners that have been to sea and those who just like
to talk about it. You know it’s a
big slam when the New York Times gives it a big play, as it did on March 4,
2008. Now it is even the subject
of a documentary simply called Fisher
Poets. See and listen to
4 of the poets on this audio
slide show. Nothing abstract or ambiguous by these lads and ladies. Listen
to Mary Garvey ask us whether “Do you need another hand?” Max Broderick, 20, and his brothers and
dad are just “Doing Our Best.” (06-03-09)
80. WGBH: Kunitz Rings Right
Everybody has their hand in “Poetry Everywhere,” a production of WGBH, the Poetry Foundation, etc. On the website you can get readings of Frost, Billy Collins, Emily Dickinson, etc. The overlay from WGBH, including the graphic that begins each reading, is downright fruity and annoying—a lot of frosting that gets in the way of the poetry. The selections are often poor, and the readers sometimes pathetic. But we can recommend to you Stanley Kunitz reading his own, in this case “Touch Me.” It does. (11/19/08)
79. As Bad as It Gets
The Bard of Dundee, William Topaz McGonagall, was known as the world’s worse poet, but ever ventured forth with his verse in the late 19th century. (See the Wall Street Journal, May 17-18, 2008, pp. A1 and 8.) Nonetheless, at a recent auction, some daft collector paid about $13,000 for a good portion of his work. “The William Topaz McGonagall Appreciation Society boosts more than 200 members…. His work has been translated into Russian, Japanese, and Romanian.” “Today, Edinburgh and Dundee fight for the honor of claiming the poet as their own,” better honoring him that Robert Burns himself whose memorial is in a frightful estate. (7/2/08)
78. Third Degree Burns
It’s not an accident that Maxwell MacLeod penned the best remembrance of Jock Elliott, second chairman of Oglivy & Mather, cobbled together on either side of the Great Atlantic. He simply had a feel for the abundant Scottish blood that coursed through the veins of that consummate New Yorker and friend Big Jock Elliott. MacLeod brings gusto to a host of subjects, too long a list to mention here. But you should know he is a compulsive, passionate, obsessed fan of Robbie Burns. And he is capable, as in “Third Degree Burns” of scaring up warmth for his friends on every continent:
Oh Bill wert thou in the cold blast
In yonder lee in younder lee
My plaidie round aboot thee cast,
I'd shelter thee I'd shelter thee.
And if ye lived in foot fall ben
I'd gie thee soup I'd gie thee soup
And drams when eeer ye sauntered past
Provided it was only now and then, now and then.
But laddie such is nae ooor lot
Ye live in Carolina, ya clumsy clot
Whilt I am here in Aukd Reekie toon
Sae in tears I droon, tears I droon
But pleasures are like poppies red,
Ye seize the bloom, its beauty dead,
And we must never meet yun another,
Which is just as weel fer baith oor livers!
- Rabbie Maxwell (1/9/08)
77. Two Tramps in Fashion
JFK had a taste for Robert Frost, but he is not the only pol to be inspired
by the ‘mending wall’ poet. Howard H. Robert Jr, West Point graduate,
retired Army colonel, sometime Citibank employee, who was once fired by New
York City Transit, is back in to head New York’s buses and subways (New
York Times, May 15, 2007, p. A26). Roberts intends to have a stanza
from “Two Tramps” posted on his office wall. “The poem is a meditation on
the things a person does out of necessity and the things he does because he
chooses to.” “‘Only where love and need are one, / And the work is play for
mortal stakes, / Is the deed ever really done / For Heaven and the future’s
George Lawrence: Three by Five
George Lawrence is a very vibrant fellow—sometimes a journalist, sometimes a
publisher—from and of North Carolina. Though he’s wide angle, he reminds us
that North Carolina is a state of small villages that discovers its
greatness within town limits. It’s said that it’s all right to go to a local
builder for a $300,000 house but no more: you can spend more, but you’ll
still wind up with a $300,000 structure. All the public parking lots at big
buildings and malls are thought to have been designed by one guy with one
pen: they are fiendishly hard to get around, all to make sure you go nowhere
fast. They are so frustrating that even retired oldsters speed across them,
causing the occasional fender bender. This is a place where, even if you
have a lot of land around you, you’re crowded. Somebody fences you in.
It’s a coffin of the mind. George would deny it, but this inveterate
localism is what we think he writes about. (6/6/07)
Do you have
Images in mind
Nagging nagging nagging,
Seem so familiar and yet
You can’t figure out where
You got them?
You see them, feel them, sense
Them so real, tugging like your very home,
So perfect you swear
Until it dawns on
You: they are
I know these places, at least now and again
The outlined shapes
And vague lines suggesting
And knowledge of things I have seen but
Cannot fully claim. These
We will not own but will
Visit over and over
And over again,
This awareness now
I’d like to have
On a more regular basis.
The Hard Way
shapes, shadows, angles of these rooms
Define my most authentic state, leaving
No doubt of this ability
To come back for still more
And yes much much much
More of this finest medicine,
Without reservation while
These darkest of lines
Drawn to make all good edges
Cut deeply and often and repeating
With awesome force and frailty,
Lasting eternal, remorseful,
This slender grave now,
Gladness to Madness
We have long been focused on the connection between afflicted souls and
artistic merit. The poems of the Romantics often ask the right question:
the poet wonders whether he is blessed by divine madness or just going out
of his cotton-pickin’ mind. In the early 1980s one Eileen Simpson authored
Poets in Their Youth, which touched on something often spied—the
artist’s migration from expressive exuberance in youth to something more
sinister as middle age sets in. She calls on Wordsworth’s famous line: “We
poets in our youth begin in gladness; / But thereof comes in the end
despondency and madness.” Married to
John Berryman and a psychotherapist herself, Simpson saw the craziness
of a whole clutch of poets who visited with, fought with, and gossiped about
their fellow journeymen. We are always wondering whether any artist who has
lost his affliction through some sort of lobotomy can generate anything
divine. It’s amazing the number of painters who have bad eyesight. The
upsides of downsides seem to occur frequently in creative pursuits—an
affliction creates the circuitry that leads to unusual compositions.
Rajat Gupta on Poetry
“I do something at McKinsey that helps us to think in more well-rounded
ways. Every six months, all 700 partners spend a week together. In my
closing talk, I read poetry. At first, that took people by surprise. But
over time, poetry has affected what we're doing. Poetry helps us reflect on
the important questions: What is the purpose of our business? What are our
values? Poetry helps us recognize that we face tough questions and that we
seldom have perfect answers.” From “Next Stop—The 21st Century,” Fast
Company, August 1999. (4/11/07)
2006, Shigureden Museum opened in Kyoto, financed by the longtime head of
Nintendo Hiroshi Yamauchi. Featured is the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, an
anthology of 100 poems by 100 poets. Journalist
David Sax is much taken with Super Mario’s Temple. The museum is
“dedicated to the poetry card game uta karuta. The basic ‘deck’ for
uta karuta is the Hyakunin Isshu, a compilation of one hundred poems by one
hundred poets originally assembled by the thirteenth-century imperial poet
Fujiwara Teika. During the Edo era (1603–1867), the poems began appearing
on playing cards in the houses of Samurai and Shogun nobles, and a game soon
emerged in which a reader would sing the lines of a poem and players would
scramble to be the first to pick up the matching card. Over the centuries,
uta karuta grew into one of Japan’s most popular pastimes; memorizing the
poems remains part of the curriculum in some Japanese schools.”
TR: The Lyrical Roughrider
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey is a very
good, if not quite excellent, book about TR’s last spectacular adventure—a
trip into the unknown reaches of the Amazon. In need of a tight editor
because her account wanders a bit, which is fortunate for us, because all
sorts of nicely extraneous details creep into her story:
As his temperature once again
began to rise sharply, Roosevelt fell into a trancelike state, and he begin
to recite … the opening lines to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s … “Kubla Khan”:
“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure-dome decree….” (p. 297)
By this point in the
expedition, Roosevelt had already read and discarded every book in his small
traveling library and was desperate for new reading material. He finally
resorted to reading Kermit’s Oxford Book of English Verse, even
though he was unimpressed by it…. After tearing through the book of English
verse as he lay burning with fever Roosevelt turned, with great reluctance,
to the book of French verse, which he considered to be better than nothing,
but just barely…. “For French verse father had never cared. He said it
didn’t sing sufficiently. The Song of Roland was the one exception he
granted,” Kermit wrote. (p. 312)
We would wager
that Roosevelt was the only president that read poetry and debated its
merits while sick and off on a life-threatening expedition. (11/29/06)
Okie Poet of Love
Yevtushenko divides his time between Russia and Oklahoma, where he teaches
at the University of Tulsa. “I don't teach literature,” he said, “I teach
compassion through poetry and film.” He has been working on an exhaustive
anthology of Russian poetry from the 10th century to the present. See
“There’s A Danger in Love Poetry.” “I didn't become popular as a
political poet, but as a poet of love. But, as I said, I think
intellectuals have a moral responsibility to speak up. [On March 6] I didn't
sleep. In Moscow, an old Cuban man was killed. He was a cigar roller. He
was killed by some teenagers, some skinheads, nationalists. I was so
ashamed. My poem—Death of a Cigar Roller—was published earlier this month
in Russia in Novye Izvestiya. I also called a radio station in Moscow and
recited this poem to hundreds of thousands of Russians. I hate any kind of
aggressive nationalism. That’s why I wrote Babi Yar, many years ago.”
Where Poetry Flourishes
“There are, I believe, only three countries in Europe where the name of
poet is everywhere honoured rather than ridiculed. First comes Ireland,
where for over two thousand years the master-poet was also the historian,
doctor, musician, magician, prophet, Chief Justice and Counsellor to the
Kind—and ranked high above soldiers and sailors. Next, Wales, where the
poetic tradition of the Eisteddfod or National Poetic Congress has outlasted
even the English conquest. Finally Hungary. I am Irish by birth, Welsh by
adoption, and Hungary has always brought me good luck, I suppose also
because of its poetic tradition. Why are there about twenty times more
poems written and published in Hungary per head of the population than in
any other country? Hungary has survived conquest and enslavement not by the
help of religion or politics but by poetry—as in Ireland and Wales.
Hungarian poets have, however, a quality unmatched by any other European
race—their language and their myths being completely different from any
other. Thus they cannot get lost under the domination of neighboring
powers, few of whose citizens ever take the trouble to learn Magyar.
Hungarians, like the ancient Irish and Welsh, realize that poetry is a means
of storing power: notably the magical power of love.” See Robert Graves,
“Address to the Poets of Hungary,” Budapest, 1970.
We refer you also to
Za wolność, where we note that the great General Bem was
celebrated by Hungarian poet Sandor Petofi. Poetry in Hungary has been
intimately connected to the quest for liberty.
Graves is on
to something here. We have noted in
“Just One Fish in the Big Pond” and in other articles that the best,
most original ideas in the world seem to be coming from countries at the
margin which are “falling off the map.” Since the end of the Cold War the
giant nations which have dominated the world look like arthritic elephants,
and the nations we forget about are making tracks. (9/13/06)
Afghan Poetry Readings
immigrants to the U.S. have brought something special with them—the ancient
custom of poetry readings. But rival groups clash over the poetry, debating
about which is the right stuff to read. In Washington D.C. there are two
societies (Sufis vs. the Dervishes), and they don’t have much love for one
another. See the Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2006, pp.A1 and A8.
“Poetry reading has deep roots in Afghan culture; the art form began more
than 1,000 years ago in the ancient cities of Central Asia.” (8/30/06)
Donald Hall, The New Guy
Ted Kooser seems all right: he comes from the great out there—Iowa and
Nebraska—and did time in an insurance company like Wallace Stevens. Donald
Hall is our new Poet Laureate, and he may be a worry. Came from New Haven,
and did prison time at Harvard and Oxford, so he has overdone the noxious
academic fumes. We like a few lines from a simple poem, "Ox Cart Man":
We’re all of
us busy, so busy, doing it over again. (8/2/06)
When the cart is empty he sells the cart.
When the cart is sold he sells the ox,
harness and yoke, and walks
home, his pockets heavy
with the year’s coin for salt and taxes,
and at home by fire’s light in November cold
stitches new harness
for next year’s ox in the barn,
and carves the yoke, and saws planks
building the cart again.
Ars Pecunia Gratis
We have noticed over the years that the Irish have a little extra poetry
in their lives. Indeed, we have seen more than one annual report from Irish
businesses with both blarney and poesy. We were recently most pleased to
stumble on some poetry winners under
Quality Oyster Awards that mightily pleased our palate. One Fintan
O’Higgins took first prize with “The Oyster and the Pint”:
A pretty young oyster heaved a
and addressed a pint of Guinness,
“How can we bivalves express ourselves
when our glory is cloistered within us”?
It goes without saying that the pervasive Guinness is
mixed up in all the awards, loosening the tongue and guiding the hand:
The winners of the BIM
Guinness Quality Oyster Awards Poetry competition were announced at the
Ballylongford Oyster Festival. The winning poets were wined and dined
before the prize giving on September 16, 2005. The judging panel was lead
by Billy Keane, son of the late John B Keane. The competition was supported
between Main Street and High Street reminds us of “The language of poetry
and advertising—an interdisciplinary teaching project at Hamburg University”
Martin Klepper and Ingrid Piller examine poetry in advertising, and
advertising in poetry. Both are sometimes richer for the interchange. In
any event, we would contend that poetry could recharge the language of
business which has been perverted by Powerpoints, consultants’ nostrums, and
the power of euphemism. (5/31/06)
Man of Arden
We assume that this is what insightful business writer C. Goedecke looks
like in springtime:
His hat was a large robin’s nest, the
buttons on his swallowtailed coat
were dandelions; the soles of his
shoes gathered green moss, and
in his petal-soft hand he held a
blooming trumpet vine, with sweet
colored notes to herald his arrivals
and signal his departures in the
Ardens and Arcadias of other worlds
and faraway forgotten times.
- Goedecke, New York, April 1998
Hedge Fund Poets
hedge funds have become a dime a dozen, their managers, who at best are
lingo limited communicators, are trying to become golden warblers as they
sing to their limited partners and potential investors. Most are simply
trying to move beyond opaque, tongue-tied prose. But one Michael Roth of
Stark Investments in Milwaukee has burst into doggerel poetry, and has
achieved every money manager’s dream, making it on to the front page of the
Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2006 in “Why Hedge Funds Are
Feeling the Need to Burst into Poetry.” You can sample his “October-Stark
Ravin’ Bad,” if you are so inclined, through a link provided in the article:
the darn thing just goes on and on. Apparently, many of these would-be
authors want to emulate Warren Buffett’s style and fame whose annual reports
traditionally have done a pretty good job of putting a good face on his
company and its performance. We once told him that he’s about the best
investor relations professional around. (3/29/06)
Up in the
night to piss
In the January/February 2006 Atlantic, Garrison Keillor does a
send up of a host of 19th-and 20th-century poets in a collation called
“The Anthem,” where we find out how each might have done the Star
Spangled Banner. Here, for instance, is his take on Gary Snyder:
Saw the flag
Stripes & stars
Reflected in the stream
& in the morning
Still there. (2/22/06)
No Barr to Business
John Barr, now head of a transformed Poetry Foundation, is half a poet
and half an investment banker. He leans towards poets who are engaged at
several levels with the world, not those totally given over to their
interior lives. Ours, of course, is not a contemplative age anyway. We
suspect we need more monk poets. In this
interview with Wharton on January 26, 2005, he talks about his kind of
poet who is very much a man of affairs:
I might start with William
Butler Yeats, who many believe to be the greatest English-language poet of
the 20th century. He had a poem that was published as he was approaching
middle age called “The Fascination of What's Difficult.” The point of my
story is that Yeats had a life outside of poetry. He was a founder of the
Irish National Theater in Dublin, for example, and the poem talks about the
aggravations of trying to put on a play, with actors quitting and budgets
overrun—all the stuff that we all deal with in running a business—and how he
reconciles that. And he doesn't really reconcile it. He understands that
poetry is like a horse in a shed—a reference to Pegasus—waiting to break
through the doors and run off, literally fly off as a winged horse. Any
poet who has spent a life out there trying to do things in the external
world, like Yeats with the Irish Theater, is likely to capture things that
you just asked about. So I tend to go with poets like that.
There is the
problem here, of course, that when you stick a cucumber in brine, it always
comes out a pickle. (2/15/06)
except maybe a jealous poet, knows that you don’t run down your industry,
for fear you will spoil the business for everybody. In 2002, Garrison
Keillor came out with an anthology called
Good Poems. It sold well, and most in the field said
it was an okay effort—except for August Kleinzahler who gave it a vicious
review in the April 2004 issue of Poetry. Now Keillor’s out with
Good Poems for Hard Times, and we are uncertain what furies
Kleinzahler will loose. See his diatribe in Poetry, April 2004, “No
Antonin Artaud with the Flapjacks, Please.” All the poems in both books
have been read on Keillor’s PBS show. We must all be grateful that Keillor
and others are taking poetry out of the academy and putting it on the
The Visser Collection
Business Poets International, but its connection to business seems to be
that the poets on it have been or still are a bunch of working stiffs.
Wayne Visser, a jack of several trades, put it together, even linking to
our own Thomas Canning, whose ditties and whose very affecting
obituary you will find elsewhere in this section. We are not even sure
Visser is still maintaining the site, since the last new entries seem to
have been put up in 2003 and 2004. But it has several virtues. It links to
several good sites, including the homepages of a few of the poets. It
Dana Goia, poet and critic whose homepage has interesting interviews,
etc. His poem “Money” has a little bite to it: “Money. You don’t know
where it’s been, but you put it where you mouth is. And it talks.” Or read
retired executive Jim Autry’s “Downsizing:” “Too many times has a death
message / Come late at night….” Both these fellows get to the nitty gritty
of modern commerce. Visser is as good at defining marketing as anyone:
“Marketing is the art of making music…. The most exquisite music of
marketing is pure silence….” (12/7/05)
Plutarch, Dryden, the Wall Street Poet
Prompted by Dryden and Plutarch, the Wall Street poet Eugene Schlanger
has passed along to us his poem “The Joke,” where he, inspired by those two
literary giants, tells us that one line of wit often contains more truth
than an encyclopedia of meanderings. First, Schlanger:
Like most small things
Such as a lover’s eyes
Searching for the door, jokes often tell more
Than the complete history of man.
And then Plutarch as told by Dryden:
It must be
borne in mind that my design is not to write histories, but lives. And
the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest
discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment,
an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and
inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or
the bloodiest battles whatsoever. (11/30/05)
Mohammed, irreverently known as Sheikh Mo, of Dubai is not only the ruler,
but a man of letters. “His literary work includes panegyrics to U.A.E.
notables, as well as a body of more plaintive verse, centering on the themes
of love, rain, and perfumed breezes…. Dubai’s first palm-tree-shaped
island, the Palm Jumeirah, which is now nearly finished, so caught the local
imagination that it has become a kind of vernacular—two more iterations of
the form are now pressing their way into the ocean. The second Palm
development will be surrounded by an outer ring of luxury villas, built on
stilts over the water. Seen from above, these homes will take the shape of
Arabic letters, spelling out two lines of the Sheikh’s unblushing poetry:
‘Take wisdom from the wise / Not everyone who rides a horse is a great
jockey / It takes a man of great vision to write on water / Great men rise
to great challenges.’” (11/23/05)
The Poetry Home Repair Manual
is a plain spoken Nebraskan who just happens to have turned into a Poet
Laureate. His poetry lacks the overladen agenda that besets urban poets
situated on the coasts. “Lest beginning poets persist in the belief that
poetry will lead to riches, he lets them know right off there is no money in
it” (Wall Street Journal, February 8, 2005, p. D9). “A retired life
insurance executive” (shades of Wallace Stevens), Mr. Kooser has wisely
never relied on poems for a living.” We are amused by his “Selecting a
Reader”: “First, I would have her be beautiful, / and walking carefully up
on my poetry /at the loneliest moment of an afternoon, / her hair still
damp at the neck / from washing it.” Who wouldn’t want a beautiful gal with
wet locks to just wander up to his poetry? (10/19/05)
Christopher Fry was an elegant poet/playwright but in an age where Thespians
have been given over to prose. He had a long life, appropriate for someone
of a comic sensibility. In declining England, it was other angry young,
bleak playwrights who took over the stage and pushed him out of the
limelight halfway through his career. His verse dramas only gave him a
brief moment of fame, but we can see poesy plays coming back, for the best
days of Greek drama were the early ones where rhythmic choruses ruled the
roost. About poetry Fry said, “Poetry
has the virtue of being able to say twice as much as prose in half the time,
and the drawback, if you do not give it your full attention, of seeming to
say half as much in twice the time.”
And he knew what the moon was for: “The
moon is nothing but a circumambulating aphrodisiac divinely subsidized to
provoke the world into a rising birth-rate.” We have always been taken by
the title of his
The Lady's Not for Burning,
a play that much later came to be linked in jest to Margaret Thatcher. We
would have given our eyeteeth to see the John Gielgud West End production,
which also featured a young Richard Burton and Claire Bloom and who were
reputed to be electric together. We’re sure any one of the players could
have said: “I shall be loath to forego one day of you.” Read about its
opening in 1948, its move over to the Globe in the West End in 1949, and its
vast success at the Brooks Atkinson in New York. Everything Fry did was
thick with language, and you can hear the words even if you are merely
reading him. See
story/0,12830,965205,00.html. He died June 30 in Chichester.
Babe to Poesy
Rachel DeWoskin is a major poetic talent, according to Robert Pinsky,
one-time Poet Laureate of the United States, who had her under his wing at
Boston University after her return from China. In China she had starred in
a radio soap called “Foreign Babes in Bejing,” the title also of a
book she has authored about her
post-college experience in China. Her poetry as well feasts on the China
Outside McDonald’s downtown
in Beijing, I board a bus bound
for mountains with Xiao Dai
who carries equipment, asks why
I have to be so headstrong.
I say nothing. We belong
to a climbing club. Sheer rocks
For more on
her poetry, see Ploughshares at
very great surprise, the landmarks that commemorate Scotland’s premier poet
Robert Burns are in tatters, perhaps soon to be ashes. See The Economist,
January 22, 2005, p. 53. His birthplace, a cottage in Alloway, Ayr, is
rundown. “Original manuscripts in out-of-date displays are alternately
baked by heating from below and bleached by sunlight from above. …
Elsewhere in Ayrshire, the Burns Monument in Kilmarnock was burned by
vandals last years and a three-story tower in Mauchline billing itself as
the Burns National Monument is chained shut.” Obviously the famously
thrifty Scots want their verse free, much the case in many places. (6/8/05)
Motion, currently Britain’s poet laureate, had more than a little challenge
writing about the wedding of Charles and Camilla, since the snickers about
the wedding rippled through the English speaking world before and after the
wedding. “I took your news outdoors, and strolled a while / In silence on
my square of garden ground.” In less than inspired verse, he fesses up to a
little hesitation about the whole thing. But that’s the risk of being a
poet in thrall to the state, who always has to praise Caesar, whatever else
he is feeling. “Although Mr. Motion wrote a poem denouncing the Iraq war,
he has pledged never to ‘mock, deride, or criticize’ the royal family in his
poetry.” See the New York Times, April 7, 2005, pp. Al and A13.
Does Not Belong Here
We have parked our new novel,
in Poetry and Business, just to prove that we have nothing against prose.
But, rest assured, eventually it will have a section all of its own.
Rita Dove has to be an object of no little satisfaction to any poet with
a love for tempo who wants an example of someone who has challenged the
introverted disposition that enriches and plagues poets all. “She called
dancing a corrective to her own shyness. ‘Egocentrism is the privilege of
the dancing couple,’ Dove said. ‘If I’m feeling shy, I never wear neutral
colors—give me red or lime or turquoise!’” See The New York Times Book
Review, “Dance Fever,” November 21, 2004, p. 9. Poet and competetive
ballroom dancer, Dove mixes the arts or mixes her media, if you like, to
great effect. We suspect more and more artists will want to perform in
different media, going forward, since oddly enough, that seems to be the key
to creativity in a multimedia age and to be therapeutic as well for the
individual artist. “For Dove, dance is an implicit parallel to poetry.”
Dance is very much part of her poems offered up in
American Smooth. See
her homepage at
edu/~rfd4b/. Her husband, of German background, is a novelist and
scholar in residence at the University of Virginia. We think it’s one
title, “Ta Ta Cha Cha,” that most easily expresses the dance of life in her
we would say that you should take a look at the very talented actors Robert
Downey, Jr. and Australia’s Russell Crowe, who have stretched their talents
and personalities, now taking to the trail as singers, often of their own
compositions. Crowe notes that his now wife did not like the song he
composed for her when they first met, but she has since grown to like it.
It’s not clear in today’s noisy and message-filled world that one outlet is
enough for someone with something to say. See
We have previously remarked on John Barr, an investment banker who has
taken over as king at the Poetry Foundation, now unfortunately renamed the
Modern Poetry Association, a moniker which sounds dangerously close to the
politically correct Modern Language Association. (See
“Ars Pecunia Gratis.”) He’s just been interviewed by an online
publication, Knowledge@Wharton, where the questioner tries to get at the
impact business and poetry have upon one another. Barr opines: “That sense
of art expanding to the limits of human experience makes for a better
decision-maker in the business world, because it tends to offset the
tendency to reduce every business question to a simple algorithm or a simple
proposition that we can boil down and make a decision about.” (“The
tendency to simplify has to be balanced by a passion not to “injure the
complexity of the full fabric.”)
“Any poet who has spent a life out there trying to do
things in the external world, like Yeats with the Irish Theater, is likely
to capture things that you just asked about. So I intend to go with poets
like that.” Poetry, Barr implies, is all the stronger when the poet is very
much mixed up in the business of life.
an essential difference between business and art or poetry in terms of the
attitude towards risk. I think businessmen seek as much return for as
little risk as possible…. Artists, on the contrary, have to enhance risk to
succeed.” See Knowledge@Wharton at
Well, we got that turned around. We meant to say that the Modern
Association had, unfortunately, become the Poetry Foundation. You know, one
of those places with too much money that will not be well spent. But poetry
will thrive in spite of all this. (10/25/06)
of a Poet
Canning was a friend, poet, songster, drinker, business colleague, and just
generally the life of the Big Party we are all caught up in. Things were at
their best in the wee hours, when we and the family had downed too many, and
then, under his leadership, belted out show tunes near the piano. But his
son Tom Jr. put it all better in this elegant eulogy, spoken just after his
father moved on to Big Sky.
Follow this link to read as fine an appreciation as a son can give a
The Third Poet Laureate of Queens
(which means “Morning Dew”) Yi Park “was almost born on the N train in
Astoria, because her mother decided not to take a cab to the hospital.”
“When she was 14, her mother took her to a poetry reading at an Asian
American writer’s workshop in Manhattan,” and she credits her mother with
fostering her literary bent. “Much of her work is about coming to terms
with her Korean ancestry.” “Ms. Park hopes to use her post to gain access
to Queens’ vast immigrant population, including those who write in other
languages,” with the hope even of organizing a diverse reading by Queens
natives. For more on the Queens Poet Laureate, see her website
www.ishle.com. Take a peek particularly at Ms. Park’s “Ode to the
Picnic Singers,” since she herself is renowned for her throaty ability to
belt out a tune. Her book The Temperature of This Water can
be found at
totw-auth.html. (See The New York Times, April 29, 2004, p C16.)
Grey Flannel Poet
Reece, assistant manager of Brooks Brothers in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida,
is finally reaping success and renown from his writings. His
The Clerk’s Tale, a collection of his poems, has been published and
is winner of the Bakeless Prize. The title poem is set in the Mall of
America store where he first started with Brooks. See The New York Times,
May 9, 2004, Styles, pp.1-2.
Ars Pecunia Gratis
creator of complex utility financing deals, a founder of Barr Devlin
Association in 1990 which was later sold to Societe Generale, and now
chairman of S.G. Barr Devlin, has moved into the top job at the Poetry
Foundation in Chicago, which got a hefty bequest from Ruth Lilly and has had
to grow up to handle all this largesse. Having added a CFO and a money
manager to its ranks, the Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine,
was ready for a poet president. See the Wall Street Journal,
February 6, 2004, p. A6. Increasingly, we notice, poetry is taking on a
grey flannel look. See
understand this archive to be a hidden space in a nondescript office
building on New York’s Spring Street. But it may be that the poetry
movement can only flourish in disguise hidden behind anonymity, just as
subterranean errant culture was concealed from the all-prying state in
1984. That said, Poets House, set up by Stanley Kunitz and
Elizabeth Kray in 1985, is a scramble of activity with a horde of activities
on its program, the Directory of American Poetry Books online to keep track
of poets on the loose, and an alliance with libraries and others to
encourage poetry events nationwide. Poets House. 72 Spring Street, 2d
Floor. New York, New York 10012. 212-431-7920. We uncovered it, because a
jazz performer chose to have his wedding there.
Poetry Therapy for Businesspeople
David H. Adams of Great Britain tells us how he came to use poetry as a
catalyst to get businessmen to lay out their deepest thoughts:
“I‘ve been writing poetry for a couple of years now, having not done
anything since I was at school in the fifties. During the sixties and until
about ten years ago, I was a stockbroker and corporate financier. I now run
think tanks for Chief Executives in the UK.
I’ve also developed a 90 minute workshop which I deliver as a precursor to
deep issue sessions. The raison d’etre is that once guys have opened
up to each other by reciting (their) poems, they’ve nothing to hide so we
get teams transforming themselves after a very short time. I call this
‘Poetry in Business’ and have used it to great effect with banks,
industrialists and museums.”
And he has a poem to tell
you how this all works miracles for company persons:
Corporate Poetry—Getting to
Its joys and woes
To an ever increasing and ever
Voracious group of individual souls.
Manic issues evolved over
Tantrums in the night and day
Of corporate life can be
Distilled, fumigated, analysed and
Even resolved by forcing them
Elegantly through the sieve of
The poetry of the immovable
Juxtaposed with the poetry of the solution
Solved, determined, extracted,
14 May 2003
For more on Adams, go to David H. Adams Ltd., Poetry in Business, 44-0-7971
Abolition of Memory
Our recent correspondence is full of examples of what happens when we
and history take a holiday from one another. The Wall Street poet
Eugene Schlanger, who is by day counsel at a Wall Street firm, tells us of
“8 Mute Minimal Designs,” the proposed new edifices at Ground Zero
that totally blot out any memory of 9/11/01:
Where is the twisted human torso?
Where are the
flames? Where is the smoke?
fingers still dangle below
Should we not, here and now, make known the
agony? Who among these
Names leaped to
their deaths? Who did not
Have a chance
to leap, scorched, crushed?
Placid well-lit puddles of piddling light
mourn, feign empathy and
Experience. Serene Ground Zero.
Is this the
scene searched in vain for remains?
Each age has
the art it deserves.
Will this be called the architecture of amnesia?
Where It's At--Poetry, That Is
If you will visit the Online Poetry Classroom, you can find a poetry
map and a lot more, all this being an up with poetry effort of the Academy
of American Poets. See
www.onlinepoetryclassroom.org/what/map.cfm. Actually, the site all
looks kind of bureaucratic and anti-poetic to us, but it’s sort of fun to
learn what semi officially-accepted poets are listed for your state. What
this all means is that you will find here the big guns of the Beat Era such
as Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti, but none of the lesser lights who are still
carrying their message from city to city. And news about the slams and rap
rhetoric that is putting poetry in the streets never makes it into this
Poetry slams, where poets and crowds gather to hear poetry shouted
out as if at a rock concert (remember some of the beats who did take poetry
to the young masses) are growing apace, even if they offend the
sensibilities at the high end of the poetry community. “Henry Sampson,
treasurer of Poetry Slam, a nonprofit that oversees a network of 92 slam
organizations, says this year’s nationals, held in August in
$70,000 and were paid for by a mix of grants, audience fees, ads and
contributions from such sponsors as Magnetic Poetry, the company that makes
magnetic word games for refrigerator doors.” Poetry also received another
boost last year when one Ruth Lilly, heiress to the Eli Lilly fortune, threw
$100 million at Poetry, the more established organ of poesy. See
Forbes, September 29, 2003, pp. 123-4. Also see
The Other Genet
Eugene Schlanger, sometimes known as the Wall Street poet, is legal
counsel by day, father by night, and sometime poet in between. He is kind
enough to share with us a little reflection borne of his recent historical
reading that juxtaposes today's tumults to yesterday's flurry:
The Role Of An Historian
The Jacobins, eager to purge Girondin
Ministers and appointees, recalled one
Edmond-Charles Edouard Genet from
His post, after both the Federalists
And Republicans, under Hamilton and
Jefferson, those stellar opposites,
Objected to the diplomat's arrogance.
The Jacobins had found Genet guilty of
"Giddiness" and "vanity"; of needlessly
Offending a friendly new nation: these
United States. Who was guilty of less,
At the dawn of self-governance, when men
Tossed off the cowls of incestuous royals
And foreign parliamentarians?
How odd to ponder such antient things
When the nightmares of history are topped
By daily reports of rape, murder, theft.
As the trains, on gray days, lurch to and from
The City, books and glossies proliferate:
Among the assignations, and the debts,
One is relieved to discover gallantry.
On November 6, 2002, Poetry International launched its website (www.poetryinternational.org),
appropriately enough a Dutch undertaking. When we are in Holland, we are
always surprised how many languages our waiters speak, so it’s fitting that
the homebase for this international effort should be located there. You can
find poetry of many countries rendered in both English and the language of
Wall Street Poet
The deputy general counsel for Nomura in New York has just made it
to the front page of the Wall Street Journal—but not for his lawyerly
skills. As it happens, Eugene Schlanger is a poet on the side, and, among
other things, has captured the Ground Zero tragedy in his verse. One of his
friends particularly likes a line, “Witness to a world that a world cannot
measure.” We would probably rephrase it to read, “Witness to a world that a
word cannot measure. A world that leaves poets mute.” See the Wall
Street Journal, September 12, 2002, pp. Al and A10.
Marks and Sparks
Peter Sansom, in this very nice short essay, ruminates on the
relationship between poetry and business. He touches on a stint at England’s
Marks and Spencer, where he participated in poetry workshops at the head
office as well as poetry visits to other Marks locations around the
“Poetry has a long tradition in Japan, but over the last two
decades it has surged in popularity to a level that is simply unfathomable
by Western standards. Millions of Japanese regularly write poetry—by
various counts 5 million to more than 10 million….” “Aside from
regular television and radio shows about poems, there are more than 2,000
poetry magazines….” One book of poetry sold some 2.7 million copies. Some
feel that the addiction to poetry in Japan stems from brevity: the verses
are short and readable. See the New York Times, January 20, 1996, p.
In the Pink
Our American poets continue to infiltrate every corner of society.
Robert Pinsky, former poet laureate and teacher in Boston University's
esteemed writing program, has teamed up with the Takacs Quartet to bring his
and their strains to Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. Meanwhile, he
continues his affiliation as well with Jim Lehrer's Newshour on
PBS. (See the New York Times, April 14, 2002, pp. 25 and 3l.)
Poetry continues to come in from out of the cold.
The Poetry Gang
The Yale Club in New York has a bi-annual meeting for nighttime
poets called the "poetry gang." We would have preferred something
Western, like the Hole-in-the-Woh Gang we researched years ago. We
wonder what these grey flannel verses are like.
Left earth. On his way to heaven, we are sure. Poet,
philosopher, diplomat, first and longtime president of Senegal. It is extraordinary how many
interesting political leaders are poets as well. In 1984 he became the
first black member of the French Academy. See the New York Times,
December 21, 2001, p. A25. Senghor's books include:
The Collected Poetry
Selected Poems of Leopold Sedar Senghor
Not only is business making more use of verse to overcome its
prosaic discourse, but poets are becoming even more successful guerilla
marketers. Oregon poets publish their verse in a journal (www.gumballpoetry.com)
but they are also stuffing clear plastic gumballs with poems for sale in
five Western states plus New Jersey. See The Wall Street Journal,
November 20, 2001, p. A16.
Coup of the Meter Minders
The suits, as they are known in the ad trade, have beaten the
creatives at the American Academy of Poets. The executive committee of
the board (Jonathan Galassi, top dog at Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Henry
Reath, once of Doubleday; plus a few other literary capitalists) cut down
William Wadsworth, executive director, who has taken the academy from
nowhere to somewhere. Wordsworth was a spender -- a problem for the
bean counters. Poetry is becoming such a big business that it is now
subject to takeovers. See The New York Times, November 7, 2001,
pp. E1 and E14.
Out of the Blue
Our Global province poet laureate, Tom Canning, watches blue skies simply turn --
Out of the Blue
"Out of a clear, blue sky..."
The unexpected happens.
On a Tuesday turned
Evil ambushed America,
Out of a clear, blue sky.
Corporation in Florida (NYSE: LEN) is doing pretty well as a company, while enjoying a
little goofiness to build company morale. This includes a company song, borrowed
from a Notre Dame ditty, and a company poem everybody recites about a little red
hen. This all got started when Stuart Miller took some multicultural training at the
Disney Institute (that's right, Walt Disney does management training, too). Well, we
asked for more red hen details, but apparently this is secret intellectual property,
because we haven't heard a thing from Lennar. See The Wall Street Journal,
July 27, 2001, pp. A1 and A4.
We are immensely proud of our business poet laureate, Tom Canning, whose comic
cadences often lighten these web pages. Now towns all over America are hatching
their own laureates. See the Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2001, A1 and
A6. Sonoma Country, Queens (a borough of New York City), Berks County in
Pennsylvania, Providence (Rhode Island), Pleasanton (California) have anointed poetry
Our business poet laureate laments the decline of New York's great mercantile
stores, just as we celebrate elsewhere the conversion of the whole of San Francisco into a
gigantic mall. Father Tom does not ever talk about Brooks Brothers, which is really
dead, even if Marks and Spencer, its English owner, has not had the grace to bury it, but
is trying to sell off its carcass.
Tom writes, "I'm a year older, but none the wiser."
Stern's: The Last Departed(ment) Store
New York's proud emporia
Once filled us with euphoria.
But these days we're downhearted,
Recalling stores departed.
The latest news has us grieving
Because storied Stern's is leaving.
Alas, it is no longer there.
Gone is the fair Wanamaker.
And Gertz has fled Jamaica.
Korvette, lifting anchor, set sail.
B. Altman's then departed this vale.
The slaughter goes on and worsens:
Abraham & Straus became non-persons.
Where are Gimbel's, Martin's and Best?
All have gone to eternal rest.
So many stores, upscale and schlock,
Have been forced to liquidate stock,
That in a store-less future not too far
We'll have to shop in a fresh air bazaar.
- Thomas A. Canning
We were so impressed by Washington lawyer Mary B. Hevener's articulation of the
slow-death of the estate tax in The Wall Street Journal that we'd like to
reproduce it here:
Estate tax dies in 2010, it's true,
But springs to life again in 2011
By then, the very wealthy may well rue
The fact they're still alive, and not in heaven.
In nine more years, if you're both rich and ill,
Your heirs will all be hoping that you try
To name your family members in your will,
And pick a tax-effective time to die.
Heidi Schuessler has a long article about him in The New York Times,
June 20, 2001, p. C2. He gives readings of the good guys, writes some himself, and
makes a living preaching poetry to corporate managers on the lecture circuit. Ms.
Schuessler thinks his pitch is to tap into disillusioned managers, but, it seems to us, he
merely says that life and death are bigger than the office. He has a couple of books
with long-winded titles:
How about Work and Play, Mr. Whyte?
from Jim Duke
This song is called "Duke's Dozen's," and it should urge you to the alternative
life. Duke has spent his whole career, with a big stint in the government, on
seriously understanding what plants can do for what ails us. See our entry about him
(#4 ) in Stitch in Time:
The only herb I take; On every single day
Cel'ry lowers uric acid; And keeps the gut away.
The drug it costs a whole lot more The allopurinol
Cel'ry does it just as well. It really works, you all.
Feel them coming on, Bronchitis, colds and flus?
I'll take echinacea The herb I always choose.
I also take the garlic, almost every day
The grandkids kinda shy away, AND it keeps the germs at bay
I often memorize my lines; But sometimes I do not
That's when I take my ginkgo But, YOU GOT IT, I forgot
Bilberries, blueberries, craisins, and grapes, the vine called Vitis
That's where we get the raisins, to master maculitis
Travel is bedraggling; Airports such a mess!
That's when I take my kava, To mellow down the stress
Zoloft is more often used, But old Saint John is best
Puts you in a better mood With fewer side effects/
Prostate glands will grow; When old age comes along
When I take saw palmetto; Don't tinkle all night long.
Synthetic drugs they can disturb your vital synergies
But hawthorn is a gentle herb To prevent heart disease
Celebrex may have killed some men But not me, what me worry
Turmeric's antiarthiritic And it has its saving grace;
Like celebrex inhibits Cyclooxygenase
And if you're overliving There's one herb you should choose
Milk thistle saves the liver; From the mushrooms and the booze.
Compression stockings are atrocities, I prefer horsechestnut pills
To slow down varicosites; Better than drugs will
We often talk in alphabets, EPO and GLA
Will help to put to rest BPH and PMS
Been taking evening primrose; Two decades more or less
And almost everybody knows, I ain't got PMS
The St. Luke's website, though not well constructed, does prove that London's St. Luke's
is a different sort of advertising firm, which, we suppose, is the point. See www.stlukes.co.uk/STANDARD/work/poem/index.htm.
For more on St. Luke's, see Agile Companies, entry #73.
Yours to have and hold wherever you may be.
The St Lukes handset promise?
Its hot-desking of course, sweetie.
You can use them in the garden,
You can use them over a brew.
Though be careful--sometimes people call when youre sitting on the loo.
It frees your body, expands your mind,
of course, all that is true.
But often our clients see them from another point of view.
They ring for hours, it seems to them,
with a very urgent plea.
And your phone is skulking with some old chewing gum down on the back of a settee.
Or perhaps a colleague borrows it,
just to make a quick call, and all of a sudden your phone is nowhere to be
found at all.
But really its a small price to pay,
I believe it is the best,
When did you ever hear a St Lukan say Hes just stepped away from his desk?
Just one last thought--Ive heard all those rumors.
What if we all die--of BIG BRAIN TUMORS?
Our business poet laureate, Thomas Canning, is back with the true corporate
rebel, the politically incorrect, dedicated puffer:
Not Kicking Butts
Banished from office towers
On the sidewalk he cowers
A displaced person, he lurks
Outside the place where he works.
He's too proud to just say no,
Defying e'en his CEO.
An object of corporate shame,
His ego and id grown lame,
He persists in his lonely vice,
Willing to pay any price.
More scorned than the outlaw toker,
He's the unrepentant serial smoker.
No Business Like the Venture Business
Sung to the tune of "There's No Business Like Show Business"....
business like the venture business
There's no business I know
Everything about it is appealing
Making money while you have a ball
Backing wild ideas with just a feeling
You'll get it public before it falls
people like venture people
They smile when they are low
Even with some turkeys that will never fly
You keep 'em breathing, don't let 'em die
'Cause if you write 'em off, kiss your next fund goodbye
So grab a partner and go
business like the buyout business
There's no business I know
First you find a seller who is willing
To let you put his company in hock
Find bankers who will help you make a killing
By letting you grab all the common stock
people like buyout people
'Cause if they can't buy low
Transaction fees will cover their investment, so
They're never working with their own dough
And using PIKs will surely help the old cash flow
So grab a partner and go
There's no bus'
like the investment bus'
There's no business I know
We've never had to struggle with a real job
Meeting payroll's not our cup of tea
Drawing salaries is just for the poor slobs
Who have no piece of the equity
people like investment people
They don't run out of dough
Pension funds and others give you lots of bread
But if you lose it, go in the red
You're off the hook, and with your fees, you're still ahead
So grab a partner and go!
by Robert S. Whyte, Chapel Hill venture capitalist, banjo player, and lyricist.
Away From It All
On the way to the country--Massachusetts, in this case--our global laureate
stopped by with two new poems that tell us that he was too close this July to the human
condition and that it is time for him to get away from it all. Godspeed, Mr.
Car Card Blues
Having by subway been safely expressed,
I reach my office grossly depressed
By a grim catalogue of human woes
On car cards flaunted in front of my nose:
Addiction, obesity, blooming zits,
Wrinkles, baldness and nicotine fits,
Plus all other ills of us humanoids.
Besotted by banes, who, pray, could walk tall
Upon detraining at Broadway and Wall?
Golden Boy's Lament
In these years euphemistically golden.
I find as a senior I'm beholden
To a phalanx of learned physicians
Who probe me in varied positions;
In my gilded age, as slowly I wilt,
It's my corps of doctors who get the gilt.
First verse of Arthur William Edgar O'Shaughnessy's "Ode":
We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamer of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
(Contributed by Josh Shepherd.)
Lament" and Other Poems
Our Global Laureate and good friend Thomas Canning has delivered to us a trio of
chestnuts to remind us that smiling barbs can keep us going down the corridors of power
and up the well-scrubbed suburban streets, without turning us into narrow minds.
O, how I miss the defunct long business lunch
Slaked by martinis with a Mike Tyson punch.
The Corporate Type
Headhunters stalking very big game
Search for tigers who, yet, are tame,
Rugged types who will not bite
And always say the boss is right.
So Much for Good Intentions
I felt I ought to diet
And psyched myself to try it.
After the holidays' excesses,
I convinced myself that less is
More, and decided to eschew
At least half of what I'd sip and chew,
But January is cold and cheerless,
And I couldn't make it beerless.
We repeat a few verses of a poem published in the Wall Street Journal,
June 14, 2000, A24. It is "June" by Frederick Seidel. It's an
effective antidote to an unseasonably hot summer:
In the middle
Of a field of vision
Is a hole that is
Surrounded by a woman.
The hole is life.
The ones who are
About to be born
Have no choice.
The hole is life.
The ones who are
About to be born
Have no choice.
In the middle
Of the field stood
The middle of the light
Which is love, a heart of light.
I got better.
I can remember taking
It was June.
Here the irrepresible Ray Kurzweil gives us software to crank out poems.
Some sample lines: "Sashay down the page / through the lioness / nestled in my
soul." I guess this is sort of like viagra for poets. See www.kurzweilcyberart.com.
Flight attendants at American Airlines hand out a poetry anthology.
DaimlerChrysler sponsored poetry readings in five cities in 1999. AT&T, Deloitte
& Touche, Blue Cross, and others have had poets speak to their marketing teams.
Doubletree Hotels, Volkswagen, Lanc?e, and Target distribute poetry anthologies to
customers. See "Marketing departments are turning to poets to help inspire their
companies' clientele," The New York Times, March 21, 2000, p.
It's lonely at the top,
Where the buck is said to stop.
Meetings are unending;
Labor's quite unbending;
Wall Street underrates you;
Gilbert then berates you.
You earn a fat bonus,
But who bears the onus?
Though it may bring big dough,
Being the CEO
Is bloody rough. And yet...and yet
How nice to have a corporate jet.
-- Thomas A. Canning
is Number Eight on the Internet
It is number eight among the 50 most popular search items on Lycos for 1999. Lycos,
a search engine, lists more than 228,400 poetry websites. The Electronic Poetry
Center at the State University of New York at Buffalo (http://www.epc.buffalo.edu/) has eight million
users in 90 countries. See "For better or verse, poets embrace Net," USA
Today, February 10, 2000, p.11D.
in the Box 1999 Annual Report
"Jack had a vision, a yearning go grow.
(Frankly he wanted to make some more dough)."
And there are 14 more pages of verse
Now free of pesky bacteria, these burgers can visit the school
cafeteria. See The Wall Street Journal,
January 12, 2000, p. B1, or see Jack in the Box (JBX) at http://www.jackinthebox.com/financial/index_annual99.html
13. Ode to the Code
Buchanan of Inc. celebrates in verse the 25th
anniversary of the Universal Product Code, ending "So let's salute this great
endeavor, / I give you: Bars and Stripes Forever!" (See Inc. 1999, p. 28)
12. Barr None
Even investment bankers for public utilities such as John W. Barr can be poets-in-hiding. His fifth book of poetry is called Grace: An Epic Poem (Story Line Press). (See The
New York Times, December 19, 1999, Business Section)
11. J. P. Morgan's Reslient Poets
An effective corporate ad for recruitment, professional services, sales, etc.
Click here for the
poem of firstname.lastname@example.org in
10. The Minister of Poetry
Atal Behari Vajpayee, leader of the BJP in India, is reportedly "India's best orator.
Journalism has been his main activity outside politics; he also writes poetry."
"His poetry deals with everything from dewdrops to Hiroshima," although
it ignores "India's glaring social ills." (The Economist,
September 4, 1999). Does poetry equip one for leadership, as well as business?
We think you will see more poetry in the everyday rhetoric of people of substance
in several of the world's developed nations.
9. Cowboy Poetry Sites
The New York Times, August 19, 1999, D6, "Cowboy Poets at Home on
the Web" refers us to the following sites:
One or two of these sites also move merchandise, another wilderness of trips. The
author speculates that there may be 100,000 poets out there somewhere. This is all
just another sign that plain-spoken verse will be an increasingly important
communication medium, antidote to E-speak, political correctness, and commercial pabulum
that is turning the popular mind to pulp.
8. A Poem A Day
Here's one place to get a poem. Despite the resurgence in poetry, our
mainstream media have not caught on, so they're not featuring poetry. Look for this
to change. There's a huge vacuum in the area of arts and cultural affairs, since,
for all intents and purposes, the death and decline of Atlantic, Harper's, Saturday
Review, Theater Arts, etc. See Poetry Daily at http://www.poems.com/
7. Poetry Wins the War
While Alan Turing cracked German spy codes for the British, Leo Marks invented
codes that foiled Hitler's minions. You can read about this in his new book, Between
Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War, 1941-1945, Free
Press, 1999). His basic code system used poetry, with each agent choosing his words
from a poem. As he says in his book, "I hadn't thought that writing poetry
would be my contribution to Hitler's downfall." (See The New York Times,
A13, July 17, 1999, "Writing Codes, Movies, and a Book."
One of Trammel Crow's favorite poems is Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Ulysses."
He often mails out these excerpts from the story of the dauntless king and sailor whose
motto was "to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
5. Poetry Wins Over Business.
William Louis-Dreyfus, leader at Dreyfus & Cie., knows poetry would be his sole
career, if he had to choose between the lyric world and commerce. See Forbes,
May 17, 1999:
Meanwhile, Dana Gioia, for a good part of 15 years at General Foods a
product manager for Kool-Aid, quit business in 1992 to become a full-time poet. See Forbes,
May 17, 1999:
4. Digital Poetry
Marvin Bell, poet and longtime teacher at the University of Iowa Writer's
Workshop, says prose is not the only thing that can be hewn on a computer. To his
surprise, the poetry still rhymes when worked through his computer. See
"Leaving This Paper Drill," Forbes, December 1, 1997, http://www.forbes.com/asap/97/1201/119.htm
3. Fashion & Poetry
"Perry Ellis is Talking Up Poetry," Business Week, November 23,
1998. Ellis recently presented its first Breakthrough Award to movie co-stars and
real-life poets Saul Williams and Sonja Sohn. The feeling is that this will attract
the right sophisticated crowd to its clothing wares.
2. Poetry & The Internet
In this wide ranging article about the resurgence of poetry in America, linked in
some part to rap music--Don Lee of Ploughshares says the Internet is the ideal way to
disseminate poetry and produce greater experimentation. Poetry is getting to be a
big business, with more than 48 teams presenting at this summer's National Poetry Slam in
Chicago. See "There's a Resurgence of Poets, and They Know It," The New York
Times, May 30, 1999, section 4, page 12.
1. Poetry As Competition With Prizes
Maybe, indeed, poetry is getting a bit more like business.
"Welcome," says Anne S. Lewis, an Austin writer, "to the world of
competitive poetry, the poetry 'slam,' a populist, slightly cultish offshoot of the
fast-growing spoken word movement." The ninth competition took place in Austin,
the tenth coming up in Chicago. Poetry, in this form, is a social movement, not
unlike stock car racing. It could become fairly big business. See "Poetry
in Motion: Slam-Dunking with Words," Wall Street Journal, September 10, 1998, p. A20.
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