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Haiku in the Workplace: The Mentor

Your poetical responses to this week’s challenge suggest that for the most part you regard your mentors with a good deal more fondness than your bosses.

a coach takes you there —
a mentor shows you how
to read maps
	[David Dayson]
a mentor never
tells you where to go —
but shows the way
	[David Dayson]

There was an occasional wry or cheeky response

a mentor
enables you to think —
inside the box
	[David Dayson]

but most were quite adulatory. Homage is characteristically a fulsome response, and makes for difficult poetic material. We gain perhaps a bit more appreciation for those Greek and Latin odists whose fame resides on just such compositions. For us, the consequence has been a somewhat slender range of response, as evidenced in our selections. All our shortlisted poems are somewhat more prosaic than poetic, more a listing of attributes than a courting of allusions. Nevertheless, they are not without their salient points.

Our third place selection considers the term itself, and compares it with its manifestation:

my ‘mentors’: the word
prefigures their rocklike stance,
that distant skyline
	[Sarah Leavesley]

Is this hyperbole intended as praise, or is there a trace of snark to be found here? Perhaps the quotation marks are the indicators of intent. If you were this poet’s ‘mentor’ would you feel honored? I’m not sure, and that, I think, is the poem’s greatest attribute.

My two co-winner both extend metaphors to honor their personal Nestors:

a mentor
knows the ropes —
untangles knots
	[David Dayson]
sticky business —
lubricated by the words
of a mentor
	[David Dayson]

It would not surprise me to learn these poems come from the same pen, they are so much of a piece. They employ identical strategies—the use of a stock phrase turned by the invocation of the mentor, who offers a solution appropriate to that phrase. In both instances the mentor comes to the rescue to solve a problem that is generalized, and calms the situation in the process. Both are unequivocally flattering, both are lean in language, both offer the same relationship to the master.

Who are you mentoring? How will they write about you? Remember that we are still reading Pindar 2500 years later . . .

New Poems

at work
the lead goose
     — Ernesto P. Santiago
sudden aging . . .
a young colleague asks me
“Be my mentor!”
     — Maria Laura Valente
training day
learning just how
the boss likes his coffee
     — Rachel Sutcliffe
avoiding eye contact
in the next urinal
my mentor
     — Mark Gilbert
leadership lecture
reading through the summers
of the mentor’s mind
     — Willie Bongcaron
a room full of bobble heads
sets in motion
     — Michael Henry Lee
the boss's lunch
she shows me the tricks
first things first
     — Sandi Pray
he resigned
I try to catch up . . . finish filling
his empty shoes
     — Paul Geiger
shop floor
a copy of Dickens
by each locker
     — Lamart Cooper
conference room —
a portrait of the painter
glances at everyone
     — Pravat Kumar Padhy
skies, striped in pink
his reminder to my eyes
     — Timothy J. Dickey
new employee
I put on 
my motherly face
     — Marina Bellini
Osho’s poems
the master’s wise words
on my pillow
     — Eufemia Griffo
reflecting pool
her blue suit
and her mentor’s
     – Jennifer Hambrick
amid lies and truth
gut instinct
fra bugie e verità
istinto viscerale
     — Lucia Fontana
alito pesante —
devo imparare 
molto in fretta
bad breath —
I  have to learn
very quickly
     — Angiola Inglese
Crane’s shadow and mine 
on Brooklyn Bridge
     — Anna Yin
my mentor shout
the real lessons
     — Christina Sng
office orchid
I secure the growing spike
to a bamboo stake
     — Olivier Schopfer
the boss tells her
she needs more mentoring
happy hour
     — Gregory Longenecker
her high heels
and friendly smile
a hit with the rookie journos
     — Madhuri Pillai
general hospital:
psychology tutor 
is a clinical case
     — Elisa Allo
the paring 
of stone fruit 
hinged amity
     — Jan Benson
office whirlwind —
my mentor 20 years
younger than me
     — Diana Teneva
the mentor —
instinct to escape
in the legs
     — Margherita Petriccione
path breaking foot prints
behind my son
i clean my glasses
     — Srinivasa Rao Sambangi
for a long time
an essay consigliere —
my husband
     — Angela Giordano
don’t make me laugh
office tormentor
     — Karen Harvey
bookshop owner
how I owe what
I have come to know
     — Ron Scully
haiku critiques
unsparingly . . .
trusted friend
     — Marietta McGregor
A four-leaf clover
in the lawn of clover 
Rare luck
Un quadrifoglio
nel prato di trifoglio
Rara fortuna
     — Lucia Cardillo

Next Week’s Theme: Interns & Trainees

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 9 January 2015.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. All good. Given that judging is subjective, still I would like more variety among the haiku style of winners. Ultimately it’s the judge’s call, but perhaps a wider circle? I am learning always.

    1. I wonder if you are referring to the original competitions last year – I remember not entering at that time because I didn’t want to subscribe to the Financial Times webpage, who were the sponsors.

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