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Haiku in the Workplace: Promotions and Bonuses

Receiving a bonus or promotion is a tricky situation to deal with. Either you are the recipient, which is personally gratifying but can create the risk of arrogance in you and enmity in others; or else you are the observer of the event, which can cause jealousy and feelings of persecution and inferiority. Finding a balance through this complex emotional battlefield is no simple matter. Marion Clarke encapsulates this fraught emotional situation with a surprising and effective fourth line: “top corridor . . . / a colleague’s well-wishes / from the bottom / of her heart.” And of course those left behind are equally discomposed, as this poem, also by Clarke, illustrates: “the fixed smile / of the other contender / — limp handshake.”

My three winners this week take this as the background to their considerations. With tongue firmly in cheek, in my third place selection assesses the scale of his accomplishment:

wage bonus
I go for a larger bag
of chips with fish
	Alan Summers, England

Modesty and self-effacement may be the best means of making our promotion more palatable to others, allowing them to discover that you haven’t really moved out of their orbit.

My second place selection offers a similar sense of self-abasement: not too self-important to recognize that our activities are no grander than that of invertebrates scuttling the beds of oceans:

new office space
the hermit crab checks out
a larger shell
	Marion Clarke, Northern Ireland

It’s hard to be too envious of anyone who identifies with such company.

My top winner this week makes a similar identification (though it would seem to be identifying someone other than the self):

little snail —
you climb so high
birds can see you
	David Dayson, England

The archness of the observation is telling and yet not overblown: the poem does not detail downfall, or incipient violence, it merely suggests the circumstances for such. The poet leaves it to our imaginations to fill in the (gory?) details. It feels like a perfect revenge in its own unassuming way. But what puts it over the top for me is its (I feel intentional and) express conversation with a famous classical Japanese haiku:

Hey, snail!
Slowly, slowly climb
Mt. Fuji
	[Issa, translation by Jim Kacian]

Such aspirations in a snail would be incredibly grandiose, but of course Issa is making fun of his own, and our, projections onto the snail. Scaling the heights may seem folly in itself, but our new poem suggests that, more, the poor snail is exposing itself to forces it hardly knows exist. We can even consider the poem a kindness on the part of the poet, a cautionary tale in ten words. Perfect.

New Poems

my stare
after my colleagues 
after our boss
     — Dejan Pavlinovic
the rest 
of the plates
     — Ernesto P. Santiago
recession —
the end of the year bonus
a two euro scratch card
     — Marina Bellini
Christmas bonus
grudgingly re-gifted
to Uncle Sam
     — Terri French
odds of snow —
no Christmas bonus
this year
     — Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo
in the new economy —
you get to keep your job
     — Jennifer Hambrick
the glass ceiling
tangerine dream
      Marietta McGregor
mea culpa
the boss gives me
a raise
     — Shloka Shankar
holiday bonus
making time and a half
again this Christmas
     — Michael Henry Lee
Christmas bonus —
a little less in the red
my bank account
     — Pasquale Asprea
first bonus
in mother’s hands
my promise
     — Billy Antonio
year-end bonus
first girls night out
without the kids
     — Christina Sng
long waiting —
at last the squirrel
steps up the ladder
     — Pravat Kumar Padhy
before Christmas
my office's armchair
became more comfortable
     — Nikolay Grankin
assistant super's bonus 
your own work and 
all of the manager's
     — Jan Benson
budget restraints . . .
Christmas bonus hour
cancelled again
     — Samantha Sirimanne Hyde
for her brilliant business mind
bottle blonde
     — Karen Harvey
green-eyed envy
around the water cooler
whose bonus?
     — Marilyn Appl Walker
newly appointed headmaster —
can't help giving marks
during briefings
     —  Maria Laura Valente
this year again
no pay raise
one more crack in the ceiling
     — Olivier Schopfer
working overtime
I celebrate
my promotion
     — Debbi Antebi

his elevator
To the top
The boss’s son
     — Brendon Kent
at the greasy spoon
he relishes
his promotion
     — Charlotte Digregorio (Modern Haiku XXX:1, 1999)
showing off one more
inch of her cleavage . . .
annual bonus
     — Christina L. Villa

Next Week’s Theme: The Post-Holiday Season

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 30 October 2014.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. A little bit of tricky in this assignment.
    I read it

    Post Holiday-Season at first
    Post-Holiday Season the second time.

    Could bring some interesting results in naming seasons unknown prior. . . Jaunty little theme.

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