Want to reduce complexity? Try poetry.

June 28th, 2013


I’ve identified a poetic thread in my life over the last several months. It started with the MTA’s Art in Transit “Poetry in Motion” series and surfaced most recently with Brooklyn Academy of Music’s announcement that Fiona Shaw will perform in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner as part of its fall 2013 Next Wave Festival. That confluence of poems reminded me of a John Coleman blog in the Harvard Business Review last year about the intersection of poetry and business.

In “The Benefits of Poetry for Professionals,” Coleman remarks on a number of poets who were business leaders. (I was surprised to learn that Lloyd’s Bank of London had T.S. Eliot on the payroll for a decade.) And he imports some strong reasoning on why reading and/or writing poetry can aid in the development of leadership skills. He provides great support for these ideas:

  1. Poetry teaches us to get our heads around and simplify complexity.
  2. It can help develop a keener sense of empathy.
  3. Reading and writing poetry also develops creativity.

And perhaps most importantly, Coleman suggests that the beauty and meaning inherent in poetry can serve as triggers for hopefulness and purpose in our work. I appreciated the reminder and felt up to the challenge.

London-based writer and poet Cheryl Moskowitz’s poetry collection, The Girl is Smiling (Circle Time Press, February 2012), rests on my nightstand to inspire as needed. It was in her wonderful poem “Leaving” that I learned a cinquain is a five-line poem of twenty-two syllables. And it has rules: The first line has only two syllables; the second line, four syllables; the third line is six syllables long; fourth line has eight;  and the last line mirrors the first, with just two syllables. So I gave it a shot.

deep thought

unseen pattern

creates reality

confident, powerful, happy


Can you guess my subject? Feel like trying your hand at a cinquain, too? Oh, go ahead. Get creative; simplify your thoughts. And let me know what you come up with.

Poem in the image is “Ragtime” by Kevin Young

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