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Haiku in the Workplace: The Personal Performance Review

This week’s topic was something more intimate for most of us — the Personal Performance Review. So much of our self-image is potentially caught up in these often casual, even random, evaluations, and so much can feel out of our control. Where the impact of the poems concerning the IT man resided primarily in the logical conclusions of their images, here the primary affect is directly emotional.

Some poets addressed the process itself, urging, for instance, compassion:

temper the steel — 
for nine circle our labours
my friend: ‘et tu . . .’
	[Tina Two]

And some viewed the potential outcomes in the most general terms:

To love and be loved,
Is the most beautiful form 
Of self destruction
	[Emily Hall]

But these fall more into the realm of apothegm. Similarly, personal reportage such as

A nervous moment
until the first words are said.
Praise, but small bonus!
	[David Osman]


Yearly pantomime
As hope seeks best of career —
But, it’s behind you!
	[Paul Lee]

have a certain charm and verisimilitude, even if they lack the usual perquisites of haiku. The three poems I have selected as top winners all seek to use images to some degree to convey their import. My third choice uses a somewhat common image as its payoff, but receives an extra boost from its comparison:

Stifling heat betrays
Missed deadlines thwart advancement
Cold tea in my cup
	[Gregory Skeen]

The heat is perhaps actual, but it is certainly psychological, which is the more telling in the event. The aggregate of fears finds its unsatisfying synthesis in that cold cup of tea, which also suggests a lack of activity in late afternoons in future, a foreboding which cannot brighten the poet’s mind. The language, in striving to meet the syllable requirement, is clunky, which works against this poem to a degree. I would have rated it higher if it had been a bit more felicitous.

My second offering

I chose the hard route
But should have chosen easy
can I start again?
	[Scott Evans]

posits the (admittedly rather usual) concept of “the path” as its means of coping with the experience. The charm of the poem resides entirely in its wistful third line. The poet knows this is impossible, but the very act of asking somehow lessens the fear of the potentialities. We take this as a sign that this person will cope with the situation — be it though willful naïveté or simple stalwart innocence.

My top prize goes to this sad vignette:

missed targets 
he suddenly regrets 
Sunday night darts
	[Marion Clarke]

This poem works as a haiku ought — it allows the images to release the potentialities of the poem, rather than providing commentary and conclusions. The opening line certainly admits to the topic at hand, but also opens to other possibilities, and of course neatly redounds in the third. The language is spare — no padding is added in an attempt to realize an outmoded notion of syllable count. The third line is not predictable from the first two, and yet, once received, seems inevitable. And of course the pathos of the content — the imagining that realizing one’s career goals might only be possible through foregoing even the slightest of personal pleasures — is delivered in their starkest terms, without commentary, and so is all the more devastating for that. All in 8 words. Nicely done.

New Poems

my stretched arms —
one sandwich
divided in two
     — Doris Pascolo
bulleted out
all aspects of the job speaking 
for itself
     — Ernesto P. Santiago
notable performance sheet . . .
rendered by employers
     — Katherine Stella
PPR form
restocking my drawer 
with scrap paper
     — Rachel Sutcliffe
performance review
folding my pink slip in
the shape of a swan
     — Michael Henry Lee
peeling tree bark
she hides her spotted hands
in the interview
     — Amy Losak
Total black out
The job performance evaluation
is based now on empathy
     — Stefano Riondato
sinking lower
the ten-slot ranking
quarterly review
     — Willie Bongcaron
paper trail
the many ways
he says “satisfactory”
     — Gail Oare
IT guy smiles
he read my love letters
     — Judith Hishikawa
performance reviews
someone at the door
to check ID
     — Gary Eaton
performance review
the table’s polished veneer
is pear-shaped
     — Mark Gilbert
reflecting on my past twelve months . . .
a kaleidoscope’s
changing colors
     — Olivier Schopfer
self appraisal —
filling the columns
with stars
     — Arvinder Kaur
performance review
the song and dance
of higher management
     — Terri L. French
cadono le prime foglie . . .
il sorriso degli studenti
è il metro dell’insegnante
first leaves fall . . .
a student’s smile is 
the teacher’s ruler
     — Elisa Allo
trying to do
too much before work
“Don’t be late again”
     — Debbie Feller
performance review
the paper airplane
doesn’t fly either
     — Garry Eaton
my boss measures
unreal me
     — Srinivasa Rao Sambangi
appraisal —
praising myself within the confines
of my conscience
     — Adjei Agyei-Baah
look inside yourself . . .
the first step to becoming 
     — Eufemia Griffo
perfectionist . . .
collateral effects
gastritis and stress
perfezionista . . .
effetti collaterali
stress e gastrite
     — Lucia Cardillo
work  satisfaction . . .
he mumbles  while closing
the cookie jar
     — Adrian Bouter
the boss
weighing me up
resets the scales
     — Mike Gallagher
over and above 
the call of duty —
the boss’s son
     — Paul Geiger
in the middle of
a performance review
     — Anthony Rabang
how the clouds
keep on changing
     — Billy Antonio
yearly review —
a garbage truck outside
the office window
     — Brendon Kent
that promotion . . .
a little further
than envisaged 
     — Madhuri Pillai
all night work . . .
the final self-appraisal
in three lines
     — Marta Chocilowska
key performance indicator
one too many beers 
downed at lunchtime
     — Marietta McGregor
appraisal time —
playing hide-and-seek
with my self-confidence
     — Maria Laura Valente
annual appraisal 
in the “not quite there” tone
a touch of school report
     — Sonam Chhoki
performance review
the manager’s T-shirt says
“you suck”
     — Garry Eaton
The artistic impression
Which characterizes me
L’impronta artistica
che mi caratterizza
     — Angela Giordano
personal review
my professional failings
never looked so good
     — Lee Nash
performance review
i award myself 
an oscar
     — Karen Harvey
whisky breath
a kiss from the boss
sealing my performance
     — Celestine Nudanu
it goes well 
the Personal Performance Review
— her see-through blouse
     — Angelee Deodhar

Next Week’s Theme: Bring Your Child to Work Day

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 4 May 2015.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. and see my Haiku page.It is in Hindi and Marathi language s on my facebook profile.प्रा जवाहर मुथा चे हायकु।
    Prof Jawahar Mutha

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