WRITE LINES: Of course poetry is good communications, it goes for the heart


Poetry? In good communications?

There’s a few lines of verse I have to be careful with because when I read them my eyes always fill  with stinging tears. I can’t help myself.

You may know them. They are from AE Houseman’s ‘A Shropshire Lad’. He was inspired to write them after climbing the Clent Hills in North Worcestershire and looking towards Shropshire in the distance.

They are lines filled with a sense of loss. Soldiers in the First World War often took them with them into the trenches. Wilfred Owen carried a copy with him.

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

I was reminded by this by an unconference session at GCS North in Manchester earlier today. Poetry in communications was floated as a session idea almost as an afterthought. Feel a lump in the throat? I do.

Here are two surprising things. First, Houseman never knew Shropshire well. He was from Bromsgrove. He would see the hills in the far-off distance to him they were a place that were just out-of-reach. Second, Houseman for all the passion of those lines was outwardly a cold man. An academic of the Classics he was an unemotional fish. But he believed that poetry works best when it aimed at the heart and the emotions. I think he’s right.

All too often creativity is squeezed out of a comms job, one person remarked.

Yet, a piece of creative writing can – at times – connect better with people than the formal tone.

There is a tremendous video used to promote Dublin that marries spoken word poetry with images. It’s a powerful thing. You can see it here.

It goes back to the heart v head argument I’ve written about before.

But poetry can also serve to articulate something. One attendee at the session with a condition remarked that writing verse about his condition helped him articulate it in a way he couldn’t in conversation. Another said that a back-to-work colleague overcoming depression once communicated through a poem as she felt awkward talking about it.

If you are struggling to find the right words poetry to appeal to the heart could help you.

Picture credit: Mark Peate / Flickr

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  1. Off to Manchester for GCS,
    To listen and have our say.
    New connections made, new ideas found,
    A thoroughly enjoyable day!

    (I’m biased as one of the organisers!)

  2. Hi Dan, as the chap who casually floated the poetry idea I just wanted to thank you for your involvement in the session – I felt thoroughly uplifted by the discussion although the rest of the week at work on tasks as far removed from creativity as possible soon put paid to that!

    The unconference idea is excellent……


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