Is it serendipitous that we’re having this conversation one week after our topic was “Anger Management”? Why are we having this conversation at all? Why did we ever?
It’s hard to remember the bad old days, even if they weren’t all that long ago, but I wonder how deep-seated our new-found egalitarianism runs. We Yanks have removed slavery as national policy more than a century and a half ago, but a recent poll of Donald Trump supporters (I know, I know . . .) found that fully 20 per cent felt the Emancipation Proclamation had been a “mistake.” Now it’s possible that many, or even most, of those respondents did not know what the Emancipation Proclamation stated (though it was defined in the poll question), but it is still alarming to recognize the shelf life of that sort of prejudice. And I wonder if it really can be all that much different in this other, newer emancipation.
To judge from your responses, at least those office folk who write haiku have acclimatized themselves to the new reality, seemingly without rancor, but the insistence of old metaphors was interesting:
kitchen politics — cooking up schemes knitting alliances [David Dayson] women blend roles to multi-task with ease — such smoothies [David Dayson] only women can knit divided attention — into harmony [David Dayson]
This is intentional, of course, so I don’t mean to be casting aspersions, but does the retention of outmoded metaphor, even to make a point, help or hurt the cause? I really don’t know. At the same time, simply cross-referencing metaphors also seems to leave the question open:
women man up — while men get down to their feminine side [David Dayson]
Again and again it was your metaphors that drove the topic, from both sides of the aisle:
Glass half full Ceiling flaw Shattered dreams [Alex Killick] women working the touchy subject of being a flower [Ernesto P. Santiago]
The fact that the language is fraught is surely an indication that these issues are far from resolved, not just culturally, but personally. The main topic, after all, seemed to be aspiration:
an office fully manned — by women [David Dayson]
and the main filter, role:
queen bee — her neutered males hived off [David Dayson]
So in selecting my winners this week, I was guided less by poetic niceties and more by cultural acuity: what is our personal stake in this evolution of roles in the public sphere?
My second prize seems a clear yawp from the seat of our emotions: the fear of rejection.
jobs unsexed — why o why a y why not a double x [David Dayson]
Life is contested enough, why make it even tougher? is the sentiment here. When women are allowed to compete, the competition effectively doubles (or will when women are allowed to compete everywhere). While it is possible to read this as a complaint, I see it as a cry out of the wilderness, in quite clever cover. It may not be pc, but it is honest, and honesty will be essential to working our way through this issue.
My top winner, more mantra than haiku, could easily be adopted as a slogan for a movement:
to work to child to be [John Hollister]
The repetition of “to” in each instance renders each phrase an infinitive verb: that is, not an action word, but an idealization of an action — not the act of working, but the possibility of such an act. This mannerism causes the reader to take in the poem in the largest possible context, and to wonder why it is presented in such truncated form. What about “to work”? Which contains, of course, its opposite, which is exactly the breadth of space the poem seeks to occupy in your mind. It is interesting to me that this is possible primarily in two spheres: the realm of the small, where haiku generally dwell, and the realm of the very large, where haiku resonate. Quite a feat for six words, and an open challenge, without resolution or judgment, on the larger issue of the relation between the sexes.
office full of women the inevitable queue for the loos — Rachel Sutcliffe * only men at the office party #metoo — Johnny Baranski * carelessly leaning against his office desk her bike with basket — Ernesto P. Santiago * the sharp way he says my name his half moon moves up and down — Ashish Narain * women in the workplace for less — Michael Henry Lee * a brand new red lipstick I learn to be more assertive she’s half my age — Karoline Borelli * lunchtimes an education of salads — Mark Gilbert * my gf and I in the canteen a pair of buzzing lips — Willie Bongcaron * millennial workplace the boomer colors her gray more often — Amy Losak * office gossip — the sharp sound of painted nails on the keyboard — Arvinder Kaur * she is my colleague who loves going out on a mission with male partners — Angela Giordano * high heels’ click-clack — wilted office plants straighten up — Marta Chocilowska * his compliment carefully worded the #MeToo era — Pat Davis * long fingers working the logic probe mother board — Ashoka Weerakkody * often in the office in the women’s drawers lipstick and mascara — Rosa Maria Di Salvatore * the cleaner mopping the office floor MeToo — Mike Gallagher * office home duties new boss’s roster for her male staff — Madhuri Pillai * uniforms any objection to an out-of-order-miniskirt — Stefano Riondato * some discuss saris some women away from seats more men’s rivalry — S. Radhamani * women’s dress code . . . sexual harassment suits for the men — Martha Magenta * women behind the desk talking about the last rendez-vous — Elisa Allo * smooth running the company on Olympus — Paul Geiger * beyond tough language a line of smiles — Adrian Bouter * Aphrodite smiles as she swishes round the room flash of lightning — Christine Eales * female colleague she still looks good in that color — Peter Jastermsky * her paycheck next to his three-quarter moon — Jennifer Hambrick [Modern Haiku 48.2] * cardinal sings on an icy branch — her fresh perspectives — Timothy J. Dickey * she takes another day off work sick child — Olivier Schopfer * Hard to be heard Become hard to be heard Red nails on keyboard — Tricia Knoll * before she leaves for work a toothpaste flavored kiss — David Oates * peonies the petty cash tin’s dismal rattle — Marietta McGregor * why oh why? every female boss has a big attitude — Carmen Sterba * chill air she whooshes in with the scent of blood moons — Alegria Imperial * autumn rain — women’s wet umbrellas in the office foyer — Tomislav Maretic * the longer queue for the bathroom fixing her mascara — Karen Harvey * the boss baby comes to work in moccasin and leaves in stiletto heel — Adjei Agyei-Baah * women in recruitment everyone is concerned about the dress code — Hifsa Ashraf *
Next Week’s Theme: Why We Haiku Here
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 8 March 2016.