Can this possibly be the case?
the whole office composing haiku verse where’s the prize? [Jon Brooks]
If we have been the cause of even one office slowdown, one slacking off of productivity, one diversion from the task at hand, then I am profoundly — delighted. Has haiku become a rival of the spreadsheet and the memorandum for your attention? You should be warned — haiku can be a nasty habit to kick.
Rivalry is our topic du jour, especially those that arise in our working environments, though they need not have anything to do with work:
My lunches destroyed hers until she went super-blender [Guy Masterson]
Rivalries challenge us to do more, better, faster. It can be argued they are the springboard to all advancement. It’s seemingly elemental, begins early, and isn’t limited to humans:
monkey business — an alpha male bares his teeth at a rival [David Dayson]
It’s a display behavior, for the usual reasons:
A bragging right beyond The monetary: Kate from accounting [Samuel Sibony]
though success in this department can lead to unexpected complications:
outshining my mate the undue stress [Ernesto P. Santiago]
In fact, success in rivalry can be measured in a variety of ways:
A knife between my Shoulder blades. I have taught Him well [Samuel Sibony]
My third choice this week continues the fight:
rival actuaries — fight it out regressing to the mean [David Dayson]
We appreciate the double-entendre of the jargon, using it against itself. But we don’t expect this tableau to lead to actual fisticuffs, do we? A comic portrait in the mode of Daumier, but in words.
I have co-equals for second prize this week, as these two poems illustrate about the same level of enlightenment with about the same level of achievement:
in a parking lot men compare the size — of their cars [David Dayson]
head to head —
at a urinal men compete
for the fastest stream
Isn’t this what we love about men? Perhaps “love” is the wrong word here, and perhaps “men” as well. In both instances we recognize primal male behavior at its most rudimentary. We might as well enjoy it, it’s not going away any time soon.
My top choice this week is something subtler, at least in the doing:
the space race — counting floor tiles in a rival’s office [David Dayson]
The poet engages is a bit of misdirection: when we consider the first line, we imagine one of the species’ most elaborate and visionary enterprises. But we are quickly brought back down to earth. This is no fine thing we are privy to, but the covert accounting of small advantage. The poem takes us from the vast promise of the skies overhead to the space beneath our feet, creating a context of what the species is capable of, while keenly noting the specifics of what it is usually engaged in. A classic senryu, bigger than all the others and sure to attract a host of desirable mates.
I’m sure you’ll all be pleased for the success of our winning poet. We in haiku are above petty rivalries. Aren’t we?
shared workspace he unpins her award — Roberta Beary * battlefield — among the office stationery may the best man win — Doris Pascolo * bingo my work-life balance beats your bonus — Mark Gilbert * office rivalry my co-worker’s Christmas tree bigger than mine — Rachel Sutcliffe * secretary of state whose non-fat sugar to pass on? — Betty Shropshire * ah! repeatedly, working against each other — rock-paper-scissors — Ernesto P. Santiago * strained emotions . . . and then on the rival’s desk an olive branch — Marta Chocilowska * corner office — never wanted it, he says a little loud — Ashish Narain * sugar coated poison . . . my transfer to the old office with a promotion — Hifsa Ashraf * my Mercedes is bigger than yours and so is my office space — Celestine Nudanu * in the office rivals often create unfounded rumors — Rosa Maria Di Salvatore * she calls me passive-aggressive my brows arch — Carmen Sterba * no memory, no wish challenge to be tabula rasa patient by patient — Lucia Fontana * raising his hand "I will never agree ... " so, he bursts coughing — Vladimir Devidé (sent by Tomislav Maretic) * looking it up . . . the winner of the argument becomes the loser — Tomislav Maretic * first day ends she smiles at her competition — Pat Davis * my check on piled files urgent summons for me during long leave — S. Radhamani * coincidences: rivalry in the office rivalry in love — Angela Giordano * a roomful of rivals for the prized location window desk — Madhuri Pillai * patients in office infecting each other poison pen — Ashoka Weerakkody * glass ceiling — she pulls the ladder up after her — Martha Magenta * office wars department heads sharpen their wits — Karen Harvey * weekend the lone dune walk — Adrien Bouter * dress down day at Prada three piece suits — Paul Geiger * the knack to present last for dramatic effect office meeting — Willie Bongcaron * in the boardroom a clash of power-dresses apple of the boss’s eye — Angelo Ancheta * knowing better only your mouth smiles — Olivier Schopfer * icy gazes . . . competition overheats the winter days — Elisa Allo * crack in the door low voices at midnight — Christine Eales * window seat her big aspidistra offputting — Mike Gallagher * office shooting star a swarm of mouth-to-mouth dark tales begins — Alegria Imperial *
Next Week’s Theme: The Career-Defining Interview
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 16 February 2016.