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Haiku in the Workplace: Multitasking

I’m listening to Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians” as I write this up, sipping a barolo (haiku, I find, pair nicely with something with body and opinion), smelling the bread I have baking for dinner, watching the cardinals and chickadees fight at the neighbor’s bird feeder.

a hamster running
on many wheels at one time
remains at the start
 	[Alexa Mahnken]

Ah, Grasshopper, thank you for your counsel. I would like to see the hamster that could run on many wheels at the same time, but I take the point. If only there might be some solution:

Hindu Gods
with so many arms —
if only
 	[David Dayson]

Perhaps this is what it means to be divine — or cursed. On the other hand (sorry), be grateful I am not this person:

text phone steering wheel
poetry takes a back seat
while I am driving
	[Alexa Mahnken]

You might well ask what part of this poem I am not: the code violator of the first line, or the poetry denier of the second, to which I can only suggest, yes.

We can’t help it — there’s so much to do. Those who study such things suggest that our attention spans have shrunk to a mere 8 seconds, but while this is alarming, it measures only one direction: we are so much broader than we once were, and can juggle so effortlessly our many balls and knives — until, of course, we can’t.

Before we get to the top prizes, I wish to point out two additional poems, the first for the shamelessness of a poet who cannot restrain himself (it had to be a male) from such a horrific groaner as

the ultimate 
home multi-tasker —
swiss army wife
 	[David Dayson]

And yes, I suppose I am enabling him by giving him the attention he so desperately craves.

And this second for a completely different reason:

deadline looming
I try not to mention
the ‘m’ word
 	[Marion Clarke]

I recognize that this is a themed challenge, and that “multitask” appears in the header this week, but such a poem as this invites many sorts of departures. I tried to imagine this poem outside of the confines of this column, and, while it is ultimately unsatisfying because the poet is not doing quite enough of the work, it does succeed in creating a kind of mental space where we can go to surprise others and ourselves, and that is not a bad thing to do from time to time, no matter the occasion.

This week’s third prize goes to this neat metaphor:

blended roles
of a multi-tasker —
such smoothies
	[David Dayson]

The throw-away of the final line reflects both the multitasker and her products, and is a casual compliment, which is perhaps the best kind.

Second place goes to the seemingly unabashed perpetrator of this little mishap:

file deleted
I annoy two bosses
at once
	[Marion Clarke]

The fun of this is, of course, that we know that the topic is multitasking, and we expect that the accidental deleting will be the result of doing such, and that the poem is therefore a short morality tale. But no, the multitasking is actually at one remove, is both neatly noted and succinctly stated, and is acknowledged in such a light tone that it would be hard to take the deleter to task. An excellent job security strategy.
This week’s top prize goes to this rueful self-realization:

multiple outcomes —
only one income
	[David Dayson]

We take the content point, of course, but notice the felicity of language here — how the ms stack up at the beginning, and with but a single one in the last line we feel a loss, quite in keeping with the tone and subject matter. And again, how the multiply-voiced os gather momentum toward the end, and how this round and various sound also catches a sense of the content. So not only was this poet writing his reality, he was listening to it as well.

And now, if you’ll pardon me, I need to get back to that barolo — some things deserve our full attention.

New Poems

smoking a cigar
while updating reports
on the toilet
     — Ernesto P. Santigao
the pc is hooked up
to the xerox machine too . . .
my private domain
     — Willie Bongcaron
mulling over her words
while making a cup of tea —
enough tasks for now
     — Mark Gilbert
the librarian
with the purple birthmark
rare book room
     — Garry Eaton
multitasking wind and rain
     — Rachel Sutcliffe
no time to waste . . .
even on the commode
he writes haiku
     — Michael H. Lester
taxi for sale
pay as you earn
push start
     — Ashoka Weerakkody
correcting assignments —
I tell the homeless student
how to find free food
     — Carmen Sterba
Taking care
While having a conversation 
I wash an elder
     — Kristjaan Panneman
the CEO
juggling up to five
women at a time
     — Michael Henry Lee
stonehenge equinox
praises of the sales manager amidst
a circle of cell phones
     — Gail Oare
chatting on line —
I answer the phone
grinding the walnuts
     — Angela Giordano
between updates
confirming the monks
for ancestral offering
     — Sonam Chhoki
his break failure
hitting tree while in car
     — S. Radhamani
multitasked —
the boss calls his assistant
a napoleon
     — Marta Chocilowska
day moon
whirling around doing this 
and that and that and
     — Jennifer Hambrick
a cat has nine lives
so do I
in my new role
     — Celestine Nudanu
a gust of wind
scatters my papers
     — Olivier Schopfer
I’m talking fast —
so multitasking
may be hard for you
     — Rosa Maria Di Salvatore
i do catharsis 
in my dreams
     — Hifsa Ashraf
m u l t i
m u l t i tasking
     — Agnes Eva Savich
mind and body
engaged in a single task
fairy-tale wedding
     — Karen Wibell
oncologist’s receptionist 
while she multitasks
I wait
     — Madhuri Pillai
failure to communicate
left hand to right hand
coffee-stained report
     — Peggy Bilbro
starbucks . . .
I leave multitasking
to the vending machine
     — Martha Magenta
flow in Word
my lunch is starting the fire detectors
— delete
     — Kerstin Park
conference call —
counting a colleague’s 
facebook likes
     — Roberta Beary
splitting up hours . . .
below his desk some ants
around breadcrumbs
     — Adrian Bouter
no problem
I am a robo
     — Christine Eales
e-mails I’m answering to 
forgotten lentils on fire
     — Lucia Fontana
an angry chef
cooking up
a storm
     — Mike Gallagher
everything but output . . .
     — Pat Davis
multitasking —
stirring my coffee
with my pen
     — Billy Antonio
heated discussion —
the boss squats a fly
in the meeting
     — Arvinder Kaur
job well done?
more assigned work
. . . unchanged salary
lavoro ben fatto?
più lavoro assegnato
. . . stesso stipendio
     — Lucia Cardillo
cooking and lulling
phoning and breastfeeding
who challenges a mom?
     — Elisa Allo
Juggling Monday’s
Trucking dispatch loads
Up in the air
     — Stephan Massi
leaves of many trees
heaped in a pile
the end of my day
     — Timothy J. Dickey
ball juggling
dialing a call
while one on hold
     — Srinivasa Rao Sambangi
hardware store . . .
the receptionist files
her nails
     — Brendon Kent
order entry
she simultaneously
bobs to ear buds
     — Ron Scully
back at work
the new mom on break
pumping breastmilk
     — Marilyn Walker
multitasking seminar —
I learn what I did
as a mother
     — Lee Nash
training the brain
to multitask . . . I go off
without shoes
     — Tomislav Maretic
half of a brain
fully engaged
multitasking guru
     — Marietta McGregor
jack of all trade
my cup overflowing
with sweat
     — Adjei Agyei-Baah
in a bean bag
reshuffling my tasks
with a scarab
     — Alegria Imperial
multitasking —
driving a new car 
and new business
     — Ana Drobot
of course
I can multitask I said 
crash and burn
     — Karen Harvey
Summer time . . .
The sweat of the secretary 
on the torn letters
     — Julia Guzmán

Next Week’s Theme: In the Stationery Cupboard

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 23 November 2015.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. smoking a cigar
    while updating reports
    on the toilet
    — Ernesto P. Santigao

    So that was you in the next stall over!?

  2. Dear esteemed poet,
    Warm greetings! Going through multi approaches on multitasking, how
    human brain and body can achieve and also ” crash and burn”

    also as a housewife how often in similar position as depicted by Lucia Fontana.

    e-mails I’m answering to
    forgotten lentils on fire
    — Lucia Fontana

    so many many wonderful ,pleasure going through the site.
    with regards

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