A review of The Poetry of Business by Tracy Repchuk

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

The Poetry of Business
Working from the Inside
By Tracy Lynn Repchuk
Innersurf Publishing
ISBN 0-9731832-0-9, 2003, 172 pages, $14.95

I’ve become somewhat famous in my locale for being quoted in the newspaper as saying that “verse can change the world.” But Tracy Repchuk has taken the concept quite literally in her book The Poetry of Business. In it, she provides a kind of primer to finding out what you were meant to do in your working life. The book provides a series of original poems around the topic of working life, funny cartoons, basic poetry lessons, and exercises which get the reader using the poetry as a springboard to uncovering meaning in their own life. It’s a rather novel concept.

For those already familiar with poetics, the book is pitched at a fairly low level, and covers such things as the nature of a stanza, the sestina, rhyming, alliteration, refrain, apostrophe, Haiku, Abcedarian, Villanelle, and so on, and I’m not sure if the focus on these elements adds much to the career development aspect of the book. While they might be of some interest to a student learning about poetry, they distract attention from the main focus of the book, which is personal fulfillment and career/life development. The goal of the book isn’t really (or certainly doesn’t seem to be) about teaching the reader to appreciate poetic forms, but rather about finding out something about their own needs through the exercises, which aren’t meant to be done in verse. However, the final form presented is one developed by Repchuk herself, called a “DOCNOT”, and designed specifically to assist with the process that this book supports. DOCNOT is an acronym for “Dynamic Optimism Cultivating New Opportunistic Thought” and writing one will have the effect of helping the reader come to a better understanding of his or her own needs.

The poetry itself is primarily the kind of rhyming couplets that will appeal to those who aren’t used to reading modern poetry and who are looking for meaning over aesthetics:

I loved my career, but now that’s not true
long hours, dull duties, works’ endless queue

It’s time I thought harder what to do with my life
I’m unhappy and bored, it’s not fair to my wife

Sole purpose or calling, deep questions begin
I search for solutions by looking within

When I was a kid I yearned to do art
my parents said no, so it’s the place I will start (“I loved my career”, 34)

But the meaning of the poetry is certainly clear, and does build to the book’s theme of a seachange. It took me a while to identify the ideal market for this book, and it might be worth spelling that out in the introduction, but once I was deeply into the book, it became clear that it was pitched at a corporate market. This would be a great tool for a conferencing, teambuilding, or ideally, a career development session, and the simple but innovative exercises coupled with the poetic focus would provide a refreshing change, especially if done with the help of a trained facilitator, to the usual teambuilding fodder. As a stimulus to breaking though a career rut, and opening the door to self-awareness and examination, it’s ideal.

“Hello, yes, okay, I’ll be there in a minute.”
internal mechanisms activate new ambition
implicit doubt cultivates complacent momentum
late for a meeting, my optimistic voice quiets (“Is this what I picked”, 22)

The many exercises force readers to look at where they are, where they want to go, what’s working in their lives and what isn’t working, what 3 things they might change and the development of action plans to get there, the ideal lifestyle, the things they love, and hate about what they do, and so on. It’s a goal setting, self-paced program towards self-actualisation.

Overall, the tone of the book is positive, supportive and empowering, and lightened, not only by the variety in its presentation, but also by many personal anecdotes:

My brother, by the time he turned 50 had built an empire he was proud of. Perfect job – he got to travel around the world, all expenses paid, and the points he earned paid for luxury vacations anywhere for him and his wife. Beautiful home, 142 acre cottage on the Cabot Trail, daughter, grandkids (even though he had just turned 50), uncle, lifestyle of the rich and famous. We envied him. In a mere two minutes his life had completely changed. (58)

One thing that might tie the poetry lessons and indeed the poetry with the exercises is to have the exercises completed in the verse form described above them. This might further free the reader from some of the standard constraints of a prosaic perspective and allow them to create their own poetry. That said, as it stands, The Poetry of Business
is certainly an innovative offering which will help those who need to spend time looking inside towards a new career, a new direction, a new life.