Did you know? Have you heard? It’s Poetry at Work Day!
Of course, I’m spending the day partially in a Nyquil fog, trying to shake off the worst of the flu bug that struck me over the weekend. But I can’t pass up the chance to observe this particular day.
There’s not much that’s poetic about my work: data reports coming and going, technical specs and dependencies, constant testing and assessment, reassessment. For some, the unending challenge of data analysis, projections, systems, and processes provide quite enough satisfaction in their work.
But for me–a student of the humanities–it is the human element of my work that gives it meaning. In fact, I rarely describe or think of my work in other than human terms. Rather, I talk about the way everything we do–when we do it well–connects students to the people they need in order to progress through their programs. The information we provide supports the development of good advising and teaching relationships. Data and process serve the human–not the other way around.
(In some corners of my field, this is downright revolutionary. Rebel talk. So be it.)
There is one particular moment from fairly early in my career that has stayed with me, has been distilled through long memory into the essence of my work. I share it here.
Where do you find poetry in your work?
World Wide Web
So, before coffee had connected me to the world
or screen and keyboard to my work
the knock came, tentative and insistent as spider silk
in the darkened outer office of cubicles and cubbies,
cups and courage.
She spoke only halting English, but better at that
than I might have offered in her native Korean—
exchanging one life for another for a time, finding
her place in this new place, all swirl and hope and exhaust.
She brought with her,
leading him by the hand—an untimely young mother
to an oddly-aged son with scrofulous beard—
the visiting math professor from Russia. His English
added up on whiteboards and datasheets,
but few places else.
She needed—what did she need?
A seat in his class. A chance.
I translated her brokenness
into my flat syllables for his grasping, reshaped his struggling
into a way forward for them both. I at the center, the hub,
weaver finding form, magician making visible the invisible,
stretching forever, if needed, to connect
one bright fragile line
to the next.