What does modern poetry and business have in common? If you asked me that question a few months ago, I probably would have laughed. I just started an online Modern & Contemporary Poetry class through Coursera (taught by Al Filreis from Penn). I originally signed up for the course because my copywriter's brain feels stagnant, and felt a calling to return to the "classroom" (albeit the virtual classroom). I also wrote poetry in my 20s and I'm hoping the class will inspire me to write poetry again.
Today is Day #3 of our online course. There are over 30,000 students from across the globe enrolled in the class. From a sociological viewpoint, I find that fascinating unto itself. But as I thought about it more yesterday, I contemplated "how will this class help me as an entrepreneur and copywriter?"
Business professionals usually tend to stick with their own kind and don't venture into unknown territories - i.e. a modern poetry class. Just the word "poetry" alone can be downright scary and intimidating. You want me to read poetry for ten weeks straight? Huh?!
As business professionals, I invite you to step over that line into your imagination - your "house of possibilities" (to quote Dickinson). Poetry makes you dig deeper and delves inside the cobwebbed-corners of your brain. It's easy for me to sign up for webinars to learn how to be a better social media marketer or copywriter. These seminars will make me better at my job. But it was a big leap out of my professional comfort zone to take a modern poetry class. Even though my minor was American Studies in college and have read some of these poems, I would not call myself a poetry expert.
Poetry challenges you to look at language through new and brighter filters. It takes you into the past, but brings you back to present day. As a copywriter, it makes me look at words themselves in a richer, more layered context. I realize I've been looking at words on the surface, or maybe I just forgot how beautiful and poignant words really can be. I hate to admit it but I have lost an emotional connection to words, and I have a sneaking feeling that poetry will help rekindle that relationship again.
When reading poetry, there is no wrong or right answer. It's also a time to put your overachiever, perfectionist Type A tendencies on the back burner (I speak from experience). And sometimes poetry just doesn't make any sense at all. It might take weeks or even years to understand one line or even word. But that's okay. In the world of poetry, you are allowed to stumble and be frustrated, and you don't have to jump on the bandwagon and think like everyone else. Entrepreneurs are innovators so it makes sense that poetry might just light a new fire that takes your business out-of-bounds.
I'm not preaching that every business professional should run out and take a modern poetry class, but I invite you to step across the line. Take a class that expands your brain in a way that makes you feel just a little bit uncomfortable. Even as a lover of literature, I find myself squirming. Give me a call to action or an article and I can write it. But throw down some Emily Dickinson (who I wasn't a big fan to begin with) and I'm stumbling to gain my literary footing. But I don't plan to run for the hills. For me, it's all about having fun and taking a leap into the wild unknown land of modern American poetry.
Don't let fear stop you from taking the plunge. You may be surprised at what happens if you open up your mind and just take a chance. And sitting on the sidelines gets lonely and boring.
"Their comes a moment when you have to stop revving up the car and shove it into gear."
— David Mahoney