Corporate poetics

My daily flagellation exercises, especially during Holy Week, often include reading the opinion pages of the WSJ. Today (monday) i read  one strikingly  idiotic (?) article ranking high in my shortlist of idiotic writing (including mine). Mr Danny Heitman, the author of a “Summer of birds” and admirer of  Wallace Stevens (who got a beating by Hemingway back in Key West in the 30s), argues in: ” What John Keats (john Keats, john Keats!!) can teach a CEO”  that:

 ”  But maybe its time we reconnect with poetry not as a rarefied ritual (sic), but as a vital force of erudition and insight that can help shape the very texture of our national life, including corporate culture…….” 

yeah…right..Mr Heitman.  Have the Donald run a ‘You are fired if your poem sucks and cant make a million with it”  tv show…..

Mr Heitman cites Messrs.  Stevens and Sissman as “successful” poets on ‘successful” corporate jobs as examples upon which his theory is built (both poets are dead old timers,  both Harvard graduates and despite Pulitzers and National Books award their poetry is lesser,  in my modest opinion, naturally). Incidentally, there is zero evidence that writing poetry positively influenced their-Messrs S & S-corporate performance or their poetic chant, and of anyone else for that matter. I would suggest based on a succinct review of  S&S biographies and work that poetry for Messrs S&S was one more  of their “organic satellite” functions (Mr Stevens is quite famous on account of his Pulitzer; Hartford; being punched by Mr Hemingway and never have spoken to his parents after marrying). Perhaps they engage poetry to add relevance to their lives, corporate status, a continuation of their college years maybe?  It is difficult for me to see them as poets. (Jorge Luis Borges was a poet and a bureaucrat too, showing you can write poetry and be a cog of the system, in the sense a VP is, so Mr Heitmans’ take is not altogether implausible, which completely discredits my claim)

Any modestly intelligent human being can attempt writing poems, few humans are poets, many humans write stuff like The Emperor of ice-cream, Or Harmonium, Mr Stevens’ first book, declared dead upon arrival by Percy Hutchison of the NYT in 1931. which I read and was shocked by the severity of the review.

I assume that this rockwellian facet of american life may persuade some that deep  poetic lives are resonant and in fact improve your work as  VP or CEO; it seems “reasonable” in the eyes or mind of Heitman that is so the case. I doubt it very much he’s proven his case.

However, I acknowledge Mr Stevens, thru Mr Heitmans column, gallant, though triumphalisitc and naive attempt to write “pure and cold poetry”, as called at his time (by Hutchison at the NYT). The man Stevens had his ideas about poetry, albeit he couldnt execute them. I also acknowledge his balls-Mr S- to cut off his family after they didnt approve of his marriage. Probably these actions of serene fortitude served him better at his business of being a VP, not a CEO, than his poetry.


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