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Haiku in the Workplace: The Career-Defining Interview

There was much to like in your responses to the first Financial Times haiku challenge, especially good humor

Sorry I am late
For this once-in-a-lifetime
Opportunity
— David Lomer

sit up straight, look bright
follow your dreams, but also
ask about the pay
— Teresa Pham

resilience

seeking a new job
the smell of spring rain
on the wind
— Mel Goldberg

attentiveness to the moment

second interview —
beneath the desk her hands make
a church, a steeple
— Lynne Rees

and to both a sense of the past

sitting at my desk
I want to call
the man I once was
— Mel Goldberg

and the future

that stethoscope
around grandpa’s neck
the 5-year-old hears her future
— Robert Epstein

The poems I selected as this week’s winner and runners-up all tend toward a more image-driven technique (as in “seeking a new job” above) to convey their emotion (as opposed to a more narrative technique, as in “Sorry I am late” or “sit up straight”). My second runner-up is

There was a moment,
between the handshake and smile.
Long enough to judge.
	Robert Milner, UK

This excellent moment of recognition is certainly familiar to most of us, and it is limned simply and economically. Had the third line not “explained” what the image had already told us, I would have been inclined to rate this even higher.

My first runner-up is

a conversation —
trapped in the hush
by a water cooler
	David Dayson, UK

Another fraught moment neatly caught. We all know those casual conversations can be the most telling — or the most boring. This one seems the former.

My winner for the first haiku challenge is

draft resumés
folded into origami
birds fly south
	Valerie Nelson, Canada

There is much going on here in a very few words. We know the persona of the poem is meticulous — these are drafts that obviously didn’t fly (sorry). But folding them into origami indicates a rather specialized skill, and a constitution that needs more than the usual ways of dispelling the dissatisfactions of failed edits. So we have a glimpse of character as well as an interesting first image. We could take the third line as a joke — the result of tossing the origami birds towards the waste basket — and leave it there. But we might also take the phrase “birds fly south” literally, which adds another element altogether to the poem. This device — known as kigo in Japanese, and “season word” in English-language practice — fixes the poem in time (autumn), which brings into play the many emotional affects of the season, not to mention the suggestion that time is growing late for the job seeker as well. Now there is a poignancy and resonance to be found between the origami (birds?) and the actual birds which deepens the reader’s experience, and brings the moment into the realm of poetry. Nicely done.

Congratulations to all who submitted for challenging yourselves to stretch beyond your usual persona. And too bad haiku pays so poorly — several failed interviewees show promise for a new career. Keep writing!

New Poems

defining career
the aesthetic sense 
of simple dress
     — Ernest P. Santiago

          *

peeling tree bark
she hides her spotted hands
in the interview
     — Amy Losak

          *

happy hour
one question remains
to be answered
     — Michael Henry Lee

          *

just when I thought 
I’d got the job
my stomach rumbles
     — Rachel Sutcliffe

          *

interview panel
two out of three 
eye her legs
     — Marietta McGregor

          *

all jet carrier
walk in interview
ground crew
     — Ashoka Weerakkody

          *

between us, a cv —
the hiss of an avalanche
down the roof
     — Marta Chocilowska

          *

career woman?
always updates
and work twice as much
     — Angela Giordano

          *

loud thinking . . .
about my career path
in a traffic jam
     — Hifsa Ashraf

          *

nailing the interview
the pain
of ill-fitting shoes
     — Mark Gilbert

          *

interview callback —
human resources cannot
find my resume
     — Valentina Ranaldi-Adams

          *

my face
in the mirror practicing
the winning smile
     — Peggy Bilbro

          *

role-playing in action —
the potential for tomorrow’s job
goes on stage right now
     — Alessandra Delle Fratte

          *

after the handshake
the charm of the
old school tie
     — Madhuri Pillai

          *

why applying for this post?
i like teaching for I can
teach and preach
     — S. Radhamani

          *

match point
my answer to why 
this job matters
     — Pat Davis

          *

he smiles when he says workload . . .
     — Adrian Bouter

          *

her far-off voice
why I want this job 
I don’t mention my surgery
     — Tricia Knoll

          *

preparing for an interview —
I replace the strings
on my guitar
     — Tomislav Maretic

          *

after the interview
the toothy grin
of the unzipped zipper
     — Jennifer Hambrick

          *

my old boss
on the selection panel
a torn betting slip
     — Mike Gallagher

          *

critical job interview . . .
through the open window
blackbird’s song
     — Martha Magenta

          *

those eyes
and those legs
secret handshake
     — Christine Eales

          *

leaving the interview
with a signed contract
eight months pregnant
     — Marilyn Appl Walker

          *

third degree —
on the job training
at the police station
     — Paul Geiger

          *

that moment when
the interview changes
into a conversation
     — Olivier Schopfer

          *

distracted by his blue eyes
she curls into dense sentences
fall interview
     — Alegria Imperial

          *

big break
talk the talk
walk the walk
     — Erin Castaldi

          *

interview —
getting into time lapse 
our silence
     — Ana Drobot

          *

career-defining interview
caught within the bracket of
“what defines a successful career?”
     — Adjei Agyei-Baah

          *

decided 
on the flip of a coin
job at the bookies
     — Karen Harvey

          *


Next Week’s Theme: Anger Management

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 2 October 2014.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Lots of goodies this week, including those from Amy Losak, Pat Davis and Olivier Schopfer, but would highlight Michael Henry Lee’s
    happy hour
    one question remains
    to be answered
    — expertly done.

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