What makes work worth respecting? A poetic ode


I’m due to present at a preconference next week at the International Communication Association’s 2014 annual conference that I’m really looking forward to, and not just for the usual reasons. The preconference is titled, “(Re)Defining and (Re)Negotiating the Meaning of Work, Success, Happiness, and Good Life,” and yes, there’s going to be an amazing list of scholars attending, so I’ll be listening to some great research. But, on top of that, the organizers have set up a poetry slam to tap into our creative side! Attendees were asked to pen a few lines around the question, What makes work worth respecting to you? If you dare, read on…

You smile,


Say you adore what it is you do.

I smile,


Wonder what it is that makes it so.

That makes you so.

What gives you meaning, I ask.

What makes it meaningful?

A difficult question,

A troublesome answer.

Not all sunshine and daisies, unicorns and rainbows,

Though that would be nice.

You smile,


And say,

I make a difference.

It breaks my heart

Into a thousand shards of mirrored glass.

But then

I see myself in them.

Jagged edges.

Sparkling, glittering, transparent, not quite.

I see facets at least.

It breaks my heart.

But it makes my heart.

I make a difference, I’m not entirely certain how or why.

But I know this…

I could do nothing else.

I could be nothing else.

You smile.


My poem stems from an imagined encounter on the field, with a research participant, about the meaningfulness of work. I’ve tried to make it intimate, playful, close, because I believe that meaningful research — like meaningful work — depends a lot on the people you interact with, and how you interact with them: with mutual respect, and an attempt to be vulnerable. I’m hoping the poem gets a good response. I believe that, after the research talks are done, and we return from visiting a glassblowing workshop in Seattle (now how on earth did I forget to mention that awesome fact?!), we’ll be sharing our poetry, and reflecting on the implications for our scholarship and the direction of the field. Good times! 🙂


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