Karen Izod reflects of the mutuality on poetry and organisational change in her practice.
So how does writing poetry relate to the day job? asked a member of the audience at the Tavistock Institute’s festival poetry reading where I read with Joe Cullen in October 2017.
My response – that they are increasingly blurred and relate to where one’s attention or gaze is drawn, set me off on a path of thinking anew about how it is I work as a consultant to organisational change, and how it is that I write poetry.
The two are increasingly interwoven. During the Association for Psycho-Social Studies (APS) Conference, in Bournemouth last month, I developed these connections further. My conference presentation Linking identities: exploring connections between social science and poetry explored the way I bring both these identities, at varying times, to organisations looking for ways to surface their organisational concerns so as to bring about change. Both identities depend upon a heightened attentiveness to one’s experiences in the contexts in which they occur, and the re-presenting of that experience in forms which have the potential to transform awareness and thinking.
Writing a ‘working note’ for an organisation is not so very different from the crafting of a poem. Both can provide a medium for the expression of multiple voices, offer multiple layers of meaning, while challenging the status quo. Each requires choices about what is said, and how it is conveyed so as to bring empathy, imagination and the challenge of potential new meaning. This is part of the skill set in both disciplines.
Taking up the role of Poet-in-Residence at the APS conference involved me participating as a conference member, and in noticing the language, themes, emotional resonances emerging both prior to, and over the three days; finding forms in which to express and convey them.
Drop-in sessions, on the fringes of the conference, invited people to form ‘word-clouds’ noticing where their attention had been drawn, and creating poetry fragments which were later incorporated into one of several conference poems, and performed, along with fellow actors, writers, musicians at a conference ‘cabaret’. This was a way in which participants could hear their words, and feel the resonances with their experiences; ‘closet’ poets began to identify themselves, some writing and posting their work both during and after the event.
Organisations are increasingly looking for arts-based, psycho-social interventions to help identify and explore their processes and dynamics; this joining of disciplines provides one such possibility.
Karen Izod is a Professional Partner of the Tavistock Institute and a former director of its Coaching for Leadership and Professional Development, and Practitioner Certificate in Consulting and Change programmes.
During the Tavistock Institute’s 70th Anniversary Celebrations festival Karen read from a number of her poems, as well as leading ‘Here is Where I am’ a workshop that aimed to draw attention to the nature of ‘place’ as a key aspect of working in the ‘here and now’. To read a poem she wrote about this event and see photographs, please see here.
ArchLive: see more events that took place during the festival on ArchLive, a record of events that took place as part of ‘Reimagining Human Relations in Our Time’: a festival celebrating 70 years of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, which took place in October 2017. We have uploaded a number of recordings, reports, photographs and other outputs from these events onto the festival website.