My office at work is a decent office; I have no complaints. It’s a 10-foot square, with enough room to accommodate a narrow coat closet, a credenza with file drawers, a desk, two visitor chairs, and a four-shelf-bookcase. And it has a window. A closed-door office with a window is a big deal and, to those in the know, immediately communicates a certain work grade level.
I keep the blinds on the window mostly closed. When I first moved into the space, the window overlooked the smoking area. You had to stand and then look at an angle to get a better view. Later the smoking area was confined to a covered patio-like area on the other side of the building, but I still have to stand up to see something other than another part of the building.
Work space can be important, and in large organizations tends to follow whatever management theory is in vogue at the moment. In the 1940s and 1950s, big open spaces were all the rage, especially in functions like finance and accounting. The 1960s and 1970s brought a lot of enclosed offices; my first job at a large corporation in Houston found me in an 8×12 office that had a large storage closet. Things changed in the 1980s and 1990s, and cubicle farms could be found all over. In my workplace today, we have a mix of cubicle farms and regular offices.
I have wondered if there is a certain poetry to work space, a certain rhythm and cadence and language and flow and, well, poetry that creates these places where work gets done. A kind of rhetoric for work space—the cubicle as haiku, for example. (For the record, I’m not down on cubicles; what I consider the best speech I’ve ever written was written in a cubicle.)
Language is spoken and written in work spaces. Ideas are communicated, sometimes well and sometimes not. Conflicts and problems arise and are resolved, are left to fester or ignored. People (adults and children) are encouraged, reprimanded, lauded and belittled; people create and perform; people manage and survive and flourish and wither, whether the space is the Oval Office in the White House, an office cubicle, a classroom, a home, the cab of a truck or taxi, a warehouse, an assembly line, a hop or a store, an offshore oil rig or a hair salon. Emotion happens in these workplaces, dramas and comedies and sometimes tragedies.
It is life, work life. And this is the stuff of poetry.
Words swirl around my space,
seeking a home, a purpose,
commanding they be noticed
or translated into bits
and pixels to ricochet
upon screens and minds and hopes.
Images on my walls stare
in framed, silent witness.
Observe the space you work in. No matter how simple and plain or how complex and luxurious, it contains poetry. Can you find it?