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Haiku in the Workplace: Eating at Your Desk

We have spent some of our time in this column asking the question what exactly is a haiku, and we’ve arrived at some far-flung responses. This has been perfect training for the following:

Elegant artistry of one hand sandwich eating, 
juggling of crisps and paper clips with audience holding their breath
when your other hand catches the open bottle just before it pours its contents over the paperwork
	[Odnrej Rob]

So what do you think? Is this haiku?

We can certainly say that it doesn’t look like haiku. Yes, it appears in three lines, but that’s about it in terms of any normative approach to the genre. It flaunts its excesses (so far as haiku is concerned): the last line alone contains 26 syllables.

But by now we should also be asking more incisive questions about what makes a haiku. The questions we are now prepared to ask include things like is this a comparison, implied or expressed, between two images? Do the images so compared constitute a moment, of awareness if not of time? Is there a caesura between the images? While not all haiku will have all of these features, it would be a very rare haiku that had none of them. And the present example really has none. It is not so much a comparison of images as a descriptive account of a cinematic performance. We enjoy the description, but I’d much rather see Peter Sellers do it. Maybe not so much Adam Sandler.

So, unless we subscribe to the “anything I call a haiku is a haiku” school of thought (and there is one), we probably have to conclude this does not really qualify. If we must name it, perhaps “vignette” or “anecdote” or “tableau” is more appropriate. Nevertheless, we find it here, submitted (in earnest?) to a haiku column, which at least provides us with the opportunity to stretch our formalist legs, so to speak.

And stretching out legs is about all we get to do in meeting the content demands for this week’s challenge. What cruel version of capitalism is at work when people can’t even have a decent interval for lunch, but must instead remain actively engaged in production while seeking their necessary sustenance? It seems inhuman, monstrous, outrageous (hang on a bit here while I wash down the last of my sandwich). That’s better. Where was I?

Oh, yes, eating at my desk. Most of you found humor in the situation (we are resilient creatures, are we not?). And curiously, most of you had more empathy for the plight of your keyboards than for yourselves.

Best from M&S
Many crumbs in the keyboard
Dinner out tonight
	[Robert Bewell]

This cannot be a good sign. What is worse is the seeming willingness with which you accept your plight:

Half an hour of
victuals for my sustenance; 
a swift diversion
	[Noble Francis]

or use it as an excuse for self-discipline:

hara hachi bu —
eighty percent full
will have to do
	[David Dayson]

or might even consider the break an intrusion on work itself:

mandated break time

the silence munching

of my keyboard
	[Ernesto Santiago]

Happily (or unhappily?), some of you did find some savor in the situation:

scent of saffron

while I open my suitcase

people walk by
	[Ernesto Santiago]
illicit bliss —
hidden in the top drawer
M&S sandwich
	[David Dayson]

My third choice this week calls upon metaphor to find respite in the moment:

bento box —
its bite-sized symmetry 
time-out from chaos
	[David Dayson]

Our second place poem conflates work materials and food materials, input and input, to good effect:

Keyboard, egg and cress:
eschewing mindfulness,
I consume data
	[Duncan Stephenson]

And my top selection for the week deftly conjures up the habitual deferment of conscious lunching presumably for some reward, but that reward cannot be the life better lived — a sad, sad poem:

his desk —
a palimpsest of
	[David Dayson]

Bon appetit!

New Poems

with the monthly target
eating in place
     — Willie Bongcaron
co-workers eating at my desk
the vinegar flies
     — Ernest P. Santiago
fast desk lunch —
sushi bento and
Best of Japan on YouTube
     — Maria Laura Valente
rustle of paper —
the fried egg sandwich aroma
gags cube mates
     — Angelee Deodhar
stench of sauerkraut from his desk to mine
     – Roberta Beary
desk lunch
the salad that much greener
under the fluorescents
     — Jennifer Hambrick
daily planner
lunches remnants 
a bugs life
     — Katherine Stella
too busy today
lunch while taking care
of grandma
     — Kristjaan Panneman
Jim enjoys kimchi
and hard-boiled eggs at his desk . . .
tough luck — he’s the boss
     — Michael H. Lester
working lunch 
my pencil
     — Rachel Sutcliffe
desk mates —
the candy bar
and a diet pop
     — Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
quick lunch . . .
imagining spaghetti
     — Eufemia Griffo
the bitter taste
of radish on my tongue
makes me question everything
     — Mark Gilbert
at my desk —
lines of red & yellow
sales figures . . . or mustard & ketchup?
     — Paul Millar
Falafel at lunch —
sorting the beans out
while the script runs
     — Monica Federico
eating at your desk
rehearse monthly budget
Swallow loss
     — S. Radhamani
overtime dinner
the roaches
have a field day
     — Celestine Nudanu
sandwiched between
half-written papers
a cheese baguette
     — Andy McLellan
production secrets
a bag of Cheetos in the top
left hand drawer
     — Michael Henry Lee
lights off
the odor of
salted sun-dried fish
     — Enrique Garrovillo
lunch break
at our desks
syncopated burps
     — Martin Cohen
the bitten apple
next to my touch screen 
lost paradise
     — Eva Limbach
cake crumbs
dropping on my desk
a sparrow
     — Marta Chocilowska
lunch at  my desk —
breadcrumbs and words
in every bite
     — Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo
working lunch
one bite at a time
all afternoon
     — Pat Davis
the smell of tuna . . .
I open the window 
to let in the fumes
     — Madhuri Pillai
Ants in a row
on my desk
I have to travel
     — Angela Giordano
one eye on the screen
and one on my sandwich . . .
short chew break
     — Adrian Bouter
eating alone
at my desk —
nut allergy
     — Susan Burch
between urgent calls . . .
her working lunch
     — Karen Harvey
office lunch —
her finger prints
in turmeric
     — Arvinder Kaur
no food
or drinks policy . . .
rumbling thunder
     — Martha Magenta
my keyboard over
all you can eat
     — Olivier Schopfer
lunch after a patient
absorbed by the past
I digest it
     — Lucia Fontana
a time slot
for multitasking
lunch at desk
     — Srinivasa Rao Sambangi
finding the way through
a forest of paperwork
tuna sandwich crumbs
     — Peggy Bilbro
at the conference room
flies join the meeting
     — Anthony Rabang
spelt salad . . .
among the keyboard keys
small oil spots
     — Elisa Allo
sound of chewing —
both hands
on the keyboard
     — Tomislav Maretic
dark moon
emphasizing our future sales
that drop of mayo
     — Gail Oare
jalapeno pepper	
in the p folder	
past due 90 days
     — Ron Scully
lunch time
my boss chews on 
his fingernails
     — Cezar Ciobika
latex gloves
for his sandwiches
laboratory lunch
     — Marietta McGregor
spring breeze
depositing the scent of my food
in my boss’s office
     — Adjei Agyei-Baah

Next Week’s Theme: Working from Home

Send your poem using “workplace haiku” as the subject by Sunday midnight to our Contact Form. Good luck!

kacian_jimFrom October 2014 through April 2016 Haiku Foundation president Jim Kacian offered a column on haiku for the London Financial Times centered on the theme of work. Each week we share these columns with the haiku community at large, along with an invitation to join in the fun. Submit a poem by Sunday midnight on the theme of the week, from the classical Japanese tradition, or contemporary practice, or perhaps one of your own, which you might even write for the occasion. The best of these will be appended to the column. First published 1 September 2015.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. making three little pig
    pink nose paper plate masks
    dinner: wedding China

    Janis Lukstein

    Working at home

  2. Jim,hope you are not eating at your desk,all fun haiku,thanks!
    The first pseudo haiku could be reduced to a one liner:

    elegant artistry one hand sandwich eating open bottle contents all over the paperwork
    best wishes,angelee

  3. I liked this one best:-

    working lunch / chewing / my pencil

    thanks Rachel Sutcliffe

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