It’s been a tough 18 months for the people profession. We’ve played a fundamental and influential role in ensuring business success throughout the pandemic. We’ve supported many employees through extremely difficult times. We’re not so good, however, at supporting ourselves.
The key to balancing the many moving parts of our lives is self-care, but it doesn’t always come naturally. That’s why we decided to hold regular self-care sessions (HR Cafe), providing a safe space for people professionals to meet, find, exchange and build good habits into their daily personal and professional routines.
The grounding power of poetry
In September 2021, we invited writer, poet, and Corporate Tax Advisor Lisa O’Hare (aka Chief Poetry Officer) to join our HR Cafe for an hour of ‘self-care through poetry’. Lisa shared how poetry had helped her navigate tough times in her life. Along with so many people, Lisa had to take her life and work online once we entered lockdown and began sharing her writing on social media. As her confidence grew, Lisa started participating in online open mic events. Her poetry moved people, and pretty soon, ‘zines, anthologies, online journals and podcast hosts reached out to feature her work. Fast forward a year to May 2021 and Lisa’s debut poetry collection, ‘Lockdown Life, a Rollercoaster of Emotions‘ hit our bookshelves.
Throughout our time together, Lisa shared some poignant poems, stopping after each to ask us how we were feeling in that particular moment. We’ve linked below the poems and recommend you find some quiet time, free from distractions, to sit and really listen to these powerful works.
Business and poetry – never the twain shall meet?
Kate Jenkinson gave us food for thought as she shared her experiences as a business professional and poet.
‘Poetry and business can seem to be opposites that don’t overlap, and often people would be quizzical when I shared with them that this was my way of thinking. The harmful stereotypes of a poet going into a job centre and asking for a job as a poet – and being met with ridicule – were not lost on me growing up’.
Poetry united a nation in destress
It was only a few years ago that Kate ‘came out’ as a poet, moved and inspired by Tony Walsh’s powerful work ‘This is the Place’. The poem united a city and people everywhere in the face of tragedy, uncertainty and fear (MEN arena bombing 22 May 2017).
‘Now tell me that this isn’t something powerful all businesses should pay attention to?’
‘Get me poets as managers. Poets are our original systems thinkers. They look at our most complex environments and they reduce the complexity to something they begin to understand’.~ Sidney Harman – Founder of Harman Industries
Kate explained that the poet in your business is often the quiet voice that ‘speaks a truth you may not like to hear’. Kate says ‘don’t ignore it, drown it out or cast it aside – that voice could be the one to open a path to powerful inclusion that you had overlooked and didn’t know was ready to grow from inside your business’. So the next time someone tells you they are a poet – be curious, appreciate their neurodiversity – because that’s what it is and realise that they shouldn’t have to give their creativity away for free, poetry after all is the music of ideas. When we value the poets in our businesses, we start to solve some of the issues our rational brains have created and give everyone’s wellbeing a way to be nurtured.
Appreciating the here and now
We closed our HR Cafe session feeling calmer and better prepared to continue our day. Many of us felt we’d somehow found an almost secret way to ground ourselves and truly appreciate the here and now. But it didn’t end there. Unbeknownst to us, Lisa used our shared reflections shared via chat to compose our very own poem, which we’re incredibly proud to share with you.
We Paused with Poetry
We started today feeling blessed and relaxed
Hoping poetry opens the heart; and this is the start of something incredible
Glad to have time away from the everyday grind and be inspired
Energised and positive, curious and eager to learn
Curious about the power of poetry and how to utilise and harness that power
Keen to just unwind and make time for ourselves.
Anxious, happy, dare to hope in this crazy landscape
As we held space to listen…
It made us stop and think…
think about what is obvious
but we forget about on a daily basis…
Wisdom of what we lose in modern day life
when we should hold on to it
It was invigorating and beautiful being
just here and now
We felt so relaxed
It was absorbing
and soothed mind and soul
It helped us to keep in the moment
rather than think about many things
Making meaning of what is
Like a crashing wave breaking our own thoughts
As we left to continue our day we felt….
It changed things –
it engaged a different part of us,
as we hoped it would.
Our minds are not racing with thoughts anywhere
just a total mindfulness and feeling
in this moment
(which is rarely happening nowadays in racing world)
Learning happened within us
This was a time to sit back and simply listen – fully focused on
what we are hearing and seeing
Now we feel
We want to be true to who we are and how we want to be
We want to share with others
We want to help others wellbeing
Calmer, more anchored, more clear.
Cosy and with feet grounded
Our time together was effective
Reinvigorated and refreshed
looking forward with relish to the challenges we may face
Re-focused and recharged
and ready to review priorities.
We are Smiling
Hungry to read through more poetry
Our heartbeat has slowed,
we are feeling calm.
Gone are those butterflies in the stomach.
The rest of the day isn’t overpowering us anymore.
Worries have shrunk.
That was brilliant,
Poetry is for us.
Listen to our poem recited by Lisa
The works that moved and inspired us
Kae Tempest – Hold Your own
This work inspires people to be themselves in all simplicity and to live their fully and completely. It reminds us we don’t need to amass objects to be someone, nor do we need to continually chase higher social status.
~ Rebecca Westaway
WH Davies – Leisure
I chose Leisure as it is a classic that reminds us of the beauty of pausing just for the sake of it. It transports you to a calmer place in very few words.
~ Lisa O’Hare
Tony Walsh – Take this the pen
I chose this poem as it is so welcoming to the world of poetry. Not stuffy and very inclusive, which reflects the world I have found when I have started to share my work. I hoped it would welcome people with no previous experience into the workshop in a fun and accessible way.
~ Lisa O’Hare
Lisa O’Hare – Days Indistinguishable
What you thought and shared
We were bowled over by the positive feedback shared openly following the session.
If you think, like me, poetry is like the nursery rhymes you remember from school, then prepared to be amazed. We were able to kick back, relax and have some fun with words and phrases. The world was a different place, full of wonder and happiness throughout this session. It was so insightful and thought-provoking. If I can do it, then those who know me will reinforce that anyone can and should be giving it a go.~ Paul Hamlin via LinkedIn
Wow wow wow – When your professional institute is at the forefront of what matters to creative folks and how words can make a difference – unique events like the HR cafe happen quietly and make the earth move. I loved the CIPD Manchester event today hosted by Paul Hamlin with the engaging words and wisdom from speaker Lisa O’Hare your Chief Poetry Officer, enabling wellbeing through poetry. Congratulations to everyone involved, and highly recommended!~ Kate Jenkinson via LinkedIn
Last Tuesday, CIPD Manchester branch hosted one of my favourite poets (and colleague), Lisa O’Hare. We found out that every one of us is a poet in our own unique way ❤️ This was an excellent self-care and wellbeing session. Poetry is for us.~ Marta Davenport via LinkedIn
Lisa is based in North West England and started sharing her writing at spoken word events for the first time in 2019 after writing and performing a play at the Greater Manchester Fringe. Her poems have been published online by Visual Verse, Write Out Loud and Nymphs & Thugs. Lisa has also had her poems featured in anthologies by Printed Words, The Black Engine Room Press and Local Gems Buzzin’ Bards Anthology along with fundraising zines by the Coronaverses Collective and MadWomxn Magazine.
Lisa performs regularly at spoken word events such as Verbose, Speak Easy and Testify and has had two poems featured on BBC Radio Manchester’s Upload hour, including the title poem, Lockdown Life a Rollercoaster of emotions. Cheshire East Libraries also featured the title poem in their National Poetry Day celebrations and Be Braver featured Lisa’s story.
Huge thanks to everyone who joined us for the session and to Paul and Marta for hosting.
‘Why Reading Poetry can make you a better’ Leader by Rosalie Chang
Dazzle gradually: A poetry anthology for business by the Forward Arts Foundation