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Anna Broadway

Writing Haiku at the Office


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My greatest coup was writing three haikus in answer to one of the questions on my annual performance review last year. (Since I had to comment on well how I'd showed communication competency, it seemed like an apt place to switch from prose to poetry.)

Apparently I'm not alone in this. Almost every time I check the #workhaiku hashtag on Twitter, I find more than just my own submissions. For instance:

It's the non-writer haiku (that first appears to be from a fellow author) which gives me the most hope for this odd idea that so regularly strikes some of us. For, while I want more really good poems to be written, I can't shake the notion that any art form—in order to thrive—must exist at all levels of society, even if quality of execution ranges widely.

Events like Poetry at Work Day (today, January 15) are part of that, but so, too, is the latest edition of Street Sheet, a local publication produced and sold by people who are or have been homeless, which devoted its January issue to poetry.

At first I didn't notice, to be honest, but filed it away in my bag in case I was desperate for reading later. Then the following night, I passed another seller who managed to hold his paper up so the headline caught my eye: 2013 Poetry Edition. That was what I'd bought?

As soon as I boarded my BART train home, I dug it out and flipped slowly through. I knew what I was likely to find, but I secretly hoped for some short work or phrase worthy to compete for poetry readers' esteem—not just as Street Sheet art, but art.

And then, at last, I found this, amid a sprawling, multi-stanza poem called "Good News" whose small print filled most of a page.

I want to hear day after day of good news
So that by the time the fourth day dawns
I'll have some idea of what life is like in a world that makes sense
So that I'll be looking forward to the next damned day
So that I'll be glad to wake up
Donate to good causes, of which there'll be thousands
And every one of them will be doing very well thank you very much
I want all the guns in the world to be turned in
Broken up and melted down to make … anything else!
I want to hear that every soldier, intel wonk, officer
Commando or insurgent
Has renounced violence and are getting busy …
Building shelters, planting trees, cleaning beaches
Counseling hopeless, caring for the needy
Handing out bread, bringing in water
Giving emergency care to the destitute
Rescuing cats from trees and kissing babies
I wanna see them all get busy
Fixing every leaky toilet, broken window, noisy refrigerator
And every god blessed pothole in the known universe
That they are working with farmers to grow more food
Unlocking potential, opening floodgates
Applying bandages, splints and helping, helping, helping

Though the poet, Dan Brady, starts the poem by rejecting "Bible humping bullpucky" as a source of good news, I'd say he resonates more with the poet/prophet Isaiah than he knows.

And as far as I'm concerned, the world they both allude to, though Brady might deny it, is one in which we will still work unto the Lord, but in which even work emails will be poetry. Though they be crude, I figure my haikus are one small way to point to that hope. May Poetry at Work Day—of which today is the first observance—increase and flourish.

Anna Broadway is the author of Sexless in the City: A Memoir of Reluctant Chastity (WaterBrook) and a contributor to the anthology Faith at the Edge (Ave Maria). She also writes for the Her.meneutics blog. She lives near San Francisco.

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