The only office retreats I have observed were extremely modest affairs, conducted in slightly shabby, if remote, locations in the presence of a mere handful of participants. There were usually exercises, communal meals, a slate of objectives, and a central metaphor or slogan that was intended to tie the whole event together. Still, it was usually pretty tame stuff, not too much of a stretch for anyone, and certainly grounded in the realities of the corporate ethos. I was rather shocked, then, when met with the scale of mythos the concept of retreat evoked in at least one poet:
Canute calming tides to still blue; dream of islands surviving brute waves [Sarah Leavesley]
The following effort, tongue firmly in cheek (if far far away) is more in line with my own expectations:
the office retreats — to boldly go where everyone has gone before [David Dayson]
And of course we do not change our spots, as this poet notes:
we retreat to find — our hidden Tigger instead just inner Eeyore [David Dayson]
What we are here we will be there. And:
we retreat to find our common humanity — in a budget hotel [David Dayson]
The circumstances will not matter, so why break the bank? Cynical, perhaps, but probably canny as well.
The interest for most of the submissions this week were along these lines: either musing on the point(lessness) of such a practice, or else evoking the humor inherent in changing venues to discover new ways of thinking or being, and finding largely the same things. None of the poems really rose to the challenge of art, and certainly not to the classical exactions which haiku demand: a pairing of image which are allowed to carry the emotional freight; a cut or caesura to provide the gap which the energy of the images sparks across; a seasonal word that ties events to the natural sequencing of the year. Haiku is nearly always best performed in familiar surroundings, in the discussion of everyday experiences and actions. It’s what surprises us in the quotidian that makes for the best haiku. Perhaps shifting location and routine is not ideal for its practice.
Nevertheless, I have picked out a couple of poems that seem to me a cut above the rest, for one reason or another. For instance, my third choice seems a homely homily on human behavior, true enough of most of us most of the time:
we retreat to complain — poor quality coffee but drank it all the same [David Dayson]
We may aspire to more, but we need what we need, now, and pretty much take it as it is when we can.
Of course the hope is that we will be changed by the experience, that it will alter our reality and make us more capacious, more creative. An awareness of the process as it occurs might help:
Pulses change, time slows; each unwatched hour away brings ninety new emails. [Sarah Leavesley]
Or perhaps it will just put us in mind of our usual selves. We know we need to let go, to let the newness not just surround, but enter, us. My top choice this week is on board with this idea:
warm up exercises we imagine a hat to wear — but I just ate mine [David Dayson]
Does this exempt him? Or does it free him from all constraints? Only the poet knows, and he’s not saying. Perhaps it is his story that will be the central metaphor for next year’s retreat . . .
team building retreats the distinctive behaviors of foraging bees — Ernesto P. Santiago * meditation — in my mind only the sound of silence — Doris Pascolo * group getaway — looking for a midnight snack I meet the boss — Angelee Deodhar * team building on the office retreat our raft sinks — Rachel Sutcliffe * bursting mims coastal office retrieval . . . bearing no bosses — Katherine Stella * first office retreat — finally I see the faces behind the masks — Maria Laura Valente * office retreat I reconsider my drink limit — Tiffany Shaw-Diaz * brownie points I try to beat myself at snooker — Mark Gilbert * the office retreat our conversation revolves around the weather — Michael Henry Lee * office retreat a whiteboard full of unicorns — Jennifer Hambrick * team building the bold move to start from scratch — Willie Bongcaron * a pillar of plastic instead of insurance — workplace trophy — Nicholas Klacsanzky * office retreat finally bonding on the approach to the flying fox — Marietta McGregor * office snake hangs about the yoga group playing the long game — Martha Magenta * picnic table discovering the person opposite you — Danny Blackwell * office retreat discussing the boss’ girlfriend next door — Celestine Nudanu * office retreat brings a new perspective boss in his swim trunks — Andy McLellan * staff retreat in the sunshine our bright ideas — Olivier Schopfer * his pile of memos i rescind my order back to my farm — Radhamani Sarma * office retreat deeper and deeper in the lawn spike heels — Marta Chocilowska * corporate retreat — the boss unleashes her boxer — Roberta Beary * changes . . . door closes on my old life — Eufemia Griffo * at staff retreat we do the hokey-pokey to turn ourselves around — Michael Stinson * office retreat at the cocktail hour I embellish my story — Madhuri Pillai * sales retreat the same old business casual with a new wrinkle — Gail Oare * deep dive talk in the company lone wolves — Angelo Ancheta * a scavenger hunt for team building — what about losers? — Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo * emptying medical studio . . . can the Rorschach test predict my future? — Elisa Allo * to forget telephone and clock — owner of my time dimenticare telefono e orologio . . . padrona del mio tempo — Lucia Cardillo * vetoed for the theme of our office retreat murder mystery — Lee Nash * at the retreat dragonfly wings in morning sun — koi pond shimmers — Paul Geiger * company retreat I rediscover my passion for the boss’s wife — Cezar Ciobika * moon-filled lake . . . our boss changes into his soft voice — Brendon Kent * retreat we come out of our shells — Debbi Antebi * team building — the jack-of-all-trades emerging — Anthony Rabang * staff retreat the tipsy manager gestures me to chamber — Adjei Agyei-Baah * withdrawing into my shell to think, write tortoise — Karen Harvey * out of the office — even the boss today looks like one of us fuori dall'ufficio — anche il capo quest'oggi sembra uno di noi — Angela Giordano * turn of a ceiling fan planning retreat — Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff * liquor and laughter loosening tongues and manners by the hour — Mercy Ikuri *
Next Week’s Theme: The Ideal Boss
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 25 May 2015.