How do I start a poetry group at work?
August 18, 2009 2:25 PM   Subscribe

How do I start a poetry circle at my company?

I just purchased a new book called Leading from Within: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Lead. Originally, I bought it to read and inspire myself at work. Now, as I go deeper into it, I'm thinking this would be a terrific thing to do with other people at work.

Does anyone have ideas or thoughts on how to start a poetry reading group? Obviously, I would perfer thoughts on how to start one at work, but I'll take general poetry circles at this point. Do multiple read a poem or does one person? Do you ask people to share their own? Do you ask them to read it aloud or to themselves? What kind of questions are good to start conversation?

Please bear in mind, I'm not trying to start a prayer or meditation circle. I work for a media agency and it's difficult to keep the bigger picture in mind as we rush from project to project. My goal is to bring people together for 45 minutes one day a month where we read poetry together as a way of recharging our creative batteries.

Your thoughts and recommendations are more than welcome.
posted by zooropa to Human Relations (7 answers total)
How about you go to someone else's group for a bit to learn how they do it, approach a few people face-to-face to get them on-board, then send a company-wide announcement via email.

(Poetry books for middle management? Wow)
posted by Leon at 2:29 PM on August 18, 2009

Do your co-workers feel the need to recharge their creative batteries via poetry? Is this per request of someone there?
Personally...the idea of a workplace poetry circle would make me hole up in the restroom for the duration.
posted by BostonTerrier at 3:59 PM on August 18, 2009 [4 favorites]

> Personally...the idea of a workplace poetry circle would make me hole up in the restroom for the duration.

Me too, and I love poetry. Please make sure this is truly voluntary for all concerned (i.e., not "hey, nobody has to do it if they don't want to, but of course if you don't want to you'll look bad").
posted by languagehat at 4:51 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

You mention "recharging our creative batteries" and it seems that you were recharged by poetry. I, as a creative person, would not be. That's not what speaks to me. So you may want to reframe your problem as to "how can I best help people recharge their creativity?".

Some might enjoy poetry, others something kinesthetic, and others visual. Can you come up with some activities that speak to all members of your team in they way they process creative information? Personally, I would cringe at the thought of trying to be creative through poetry. It would have the opposite effect. Now music or drawing...
posted by qwip at 7:55 PM on August 18, 2009

I would hate to mix work and poetry, and I love poetry. If you really want to push the poetry angle with the co-workers, I'd try putting out something very informal. Maybe mention it over lunch or send a few instant messages and say if anyone's interested in sharing or reading some of their favorite poetry let me know. If you get any positive responses, set up a time and go from there. I wouldn't worry too much about structuring the event itself, but optional participations would be best. Some people like to listen to poetry but are intimated by reading it out loud.

If the workplace poetry thing doesn't work out, though, I think you ought to find poetry friendlies in their native habitat; check for poetry slams in your area, find a meetup, that kind of thing.
posted by aperture_priority at 8:48 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

i like this idea, and i don't see why you can't give it a shot! people might like it, or it might take some time to come around, but you won't know unless you try.

i organized a poetry reading event at my university a few years in a row. it was pretty simple as far as setup/organization, but the turnout got bigger and bigger every year. to advertise/get people interested, we told people (and put up flyers) that the event was as interactive as they wanted it to be. you could come to listen, you could come to read, you could come just for the snacks, etc. the only rule we had was if you were sharing poetry, it had to be published poetry - the professor who was helping with the English students' social stuff said having people come and read their own poetry would likely turn into a workshop (or a very tedious night).

the night of, we arranged chairs in a semi-circle facing the mic (the last two poetry events we had, we had blankets and pillows on the floor and skipped the mic). then, anyone arriving who had a poem to share put their name in a hat. someone would volunteer to go first and share their poem. if they wanted, they could explain why they felt inclined to share it or why they liked it or how they found out about the poet, etc. when they were done reading, they would draw a name from the hat and have the next person go up. once all the names were drawn, we would usually have a break and then a second round, if people wanted to read again.

it was awesome! professors would come and read obscure poetry that they were studying or translating or read a poem that they often taught in class because it was their favourite. students would come and read whatever it was that they liked best at the moment, or funny poems, or would sing poems that had rhythm... and best of all, as the event got bigger and bigger, we had more students who weren't majoring in English but just liked the event and wanted to listen. one of my roommates stole the show with a reading of a very emotional poem, and she said she never thought that as a Phys Ed & Kinesiology major, she would feel comfortable at a poetry reading.

anyway, good luck with it! i think you should give it a go. i hope it works out really well! good luck!
posted by gursky at 9:17 AM on August 19, 2009

or it might take some time for them to come around. oops.
posted by gursky at 9:18 AM on August 19, 2009

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