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.
my stretched arms — one sandwich divided in two — Doris Pascolo * bulleted out all aspects of the job speaking for itself — Ernesto P. Santiago * evaluation 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 aha! — 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 * appraisal 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 better — 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 soliloquy — Anthony Rabang * self-appraisal 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 * Performance The artistic impression Which characterizes me Prestazioni 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!
From 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.