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Why Poetry Belongs in Business

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Feb 23 2021

Amanda Gorman, the United States’ first National Youth Poet Laureate, left many of us awed during her reading at the 2021 presidential inauguration. Her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” concluded with a galvanizing call to Americans: “We will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one. There is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it. If only we're brave enough to be it.”

Gorman’s passionate delivery was a reminder of the power of poetry to captivate an entire nation, invite a collective pause, and inspire both reflection and action.

2020 was a year of reflection and action for business, too. Taking a moment to process it all, IDEO and SYPartners—two of the creative firms that make up the kyu Collective—hosted a virtual gathering called “Poetry Rx” for employees to share their original poetry, recite their favorite works, or simply soak in the pleasure of rhythm and verse.

To kick off Poetry Rx, Lisa Maulhardt of SYPartners said, "Poems are us singing to one another about our shared humanity. And poems are valuable in business because business is simply a context for a bunch of us humans to play out our shared humanity: Our bravery, ego, our ambition, our greed, and even our love, are ultimately what make business run. That's why poems belong in business.”

Here are three of the many beautiful poems shared during the session. We hope they lend some relief, rejuvenation, and inspiration.

divine flow, by Alysha English (IDEO)

flow is supreme truth
flow is intuition
flow is raw sugar
flow is honey
flow is manifestation
flow is freedom
flow is presence
flow is patience
flow is activism
flow is truth to power
flow is 'you are the power'
flow is divine

sometimes flow is an accident that finds us,
and when it does – flow is sitting with it, letting it stick

flow is play
flow is feeling it
flow is rhythm
flow is dance
flow is grace

flow is watching the pieces shatter and then
picking each piece up with love and trusting that every piece will land
exactly where it’s meant to be
a mosaic, a masterpiece

flow is art
flow is ritual
flow is an invisible pulse, a heartbeat
flow is that feeling when you lose track of time
and remember that you are divine

flow is a moment
flow is a breath

flow is me. flow is you. flow is us. flow is energy.
flow is me. flow is you. flow is us. flow is energy.
flow is me. flow is you. flow is us. flow is energy.

Infinite Definitions of Birthright, by Lauren Ito (IDEO)

Infinite definitions of birth right

Is it place
Or people
Or textures
Or graves
Or lullabies caressing cheek
Or…
afterthought

Or contorted masks in shapes we can’t bring ourselves to recognize anymore

I hitchhike towards mirages
Count mile markers in what grows beside the road
Who destroys it
How the invasive species are named
Where resilient blooms atop fault lines keep extinction at bay

And poetry becomes wills only some can inherit.

Tucking affirmations beneath toes at each bend
I ground prayers for cocooned comfort in given skin
As if we were destined to belong here
After all.

Originally published by the San Francisco Public Library

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry After Whitman, by Michael Juretic (Sid Lee)

    1.
    You are the patient laid out on the table.
    Your eyes are peeled fruit,
    brimming with low bruised sky.
    The butcher ghosts are working.
    No anesthetic, no disinfectant,
    no intention of stitching up that hole.

    Heart specialists. Their pinprick eyes,
    their gore-knotted fists, the nylon swoosh
    of bloodstained scrubs.

    And deep in that bone white cage,
    what is it?
    Naked, lurching; what a terribly
    obvious muscle.

    You are laid out on the table.
    The butcher ghosts are at work, and,
    working, the butcher ghosts
    change

    2.
    You know who you are
    I wake up to thoughts of you.
    I reach for you like skyscrapers reach
    in the pink-bricked morning.

    This map is the map of the universe
    is the map of time.
    It is your stars that dot
    my molecule’s chart.

    We are fish that swim
    in the rivers of our blood.
    We thrash, we sound and breach.
    We jump or heaven, dripping blood,
    we reach for the waters above.

    If you'd like, take a few minutes to share your poetry with us on Instagram—we'd love to hear from you.

    • English Taylor

      Senior Writer, IDEO San Francisco
      English is a Southerner turned Californian who loves writing about people and design. Passionate about reproductive health and healthcare advocacy, English works and volunteers as a birth doula.
    • Devin Peek

      Marketing Lead, IDEO San Francisco
      Devin is a designer and visual storyteller who recharges by sleeping under the stars. She's fascinated by people and their stories. She is at her happiest with a camera in one hand and chopsticks in the other.
    • Louisa Liu

      Communication Designer, IDEO San Francisco
      Louisa is a communication and interaction designer at IDEO on both the global brand and talent team. With a background in psychology and philosophy, she enjoys clarifying complexity and being in between many things.
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