Um … where did this go sideways?

Last month, I read The First, the Few, the Only: How Woman of Color Can Redefine Power in Corporate America. It came out last month, and I only knew about it because it was on the “front page” of my library app when I was ready to look for something random to read. It’s by Deepa Purushothaman, co-founder of nFormation, a company that describes itself as “a vetted, yet welcoming membership community created by women of color fo women of color, that seeks to reimagine traditional power structures to not just help more WOC take their seat at the table but to change the way the table is formed.” That’s a mouthful, as is the title of the book.

I’ve never worked in anything that could be considered “corporate America,” not in a serious way, anyway. I worked briefly at IBM a thousand years ago, and also at a company that called itself an ad agency but which, in truth, printed coupons. Neither of these jobs had any true value for me, other than paychecks that could add up to my next vacation. Neither of them represented a low rung on any kind of ladder I had any desire to climb. No shade to IBM. It just wasn’t where I saw myself beyond the time it took to save up for my trip. And, while I have plenty of shade for the “ad agency,” I met lovely people there, and it paid for an excellent trip and, eventually, the security deposit and first month’s rent of my first apartment. After those jobs, I worked in some corporate environments during a long stint as a temp word processor leading up and into the start of my time in grad school.

None of that work had anything to do with who I was. I won’t claim that I had a developed sense of who I was back then, but I was entirely clear that I wasn’t cut out for corporate America. And look at me today: I was right!

But I liked the sound of Purushothaman’s book, so I borrowed it to see what she had to say. It resonated with me on a lot of levels even though it’s really not about me and there were moments when the writing irked me. I hope that legions of the women who are absolutely the audience for this book find it and read it. It’s new, only out about 5 weeks.

It’s getting positive reader responses: “should be required reading in all industries.” “Really hit home for me […] I found it comforting to know that I wasn’t the only one as a woman of color struggling to ask for what I want, pushing back, being in toxic environments and knowing when to leave when it no longer serves you, unlearning to be quiet and conforming, and learning to build my self-confidence.” “My story is captured within these pages […] I do believe that there is a better, proper use for power and WOC are well-positioned to demonstrate what that new use of power could look like to reshape our nation into conscious capitalists.” (All these are from goodreads.)

But of course, all that positivity grinds to a halt for me on that last bit, the “conscious capitalists” bit. I’m not going to dive into all the reasons capitalism is the devil, not tonight and maybe not ever. I’ll just say that a system that grew in large part off the enslavement of Africans and which continues to thrive on the exploitation of the global south and the destruction of the environment isn’t really the consciousness I’m interested in investing in.

*

Um … talk about wandering WAY off course. I started writing about Purushothaman’s book because, when I opened my library app tonight, I saw that the hold I put on the audiobook is about to come in. I want to hear some of the points again, so I’m looking forward to listening.

Having the title in my head is what led to tonight’s ghazal … and, clearly, to a lot of other thoughts that I slapped up against one another above!

These last couple of poems have followed the same pattern for me. Once I have an idea of what I want the theme to be, I come up with the refrain and then try out a few different rhymes to do with it. This system doesn’t necessarily make for quality poems, but it decreases my frustration during the writing process, and that’s a welcome change. The form is still eluding me, but coming up with this (should have been immediately obvious) system helps. Tonight, I took a little liberty with the rhyme in the second couplet and with the inclusion of myself in the final couplet. Sometimes, it can be a sign of getting closer to a breakthrough when I start fussing with the strict confines of the form. We’ll see.

Half as Much

No shoulders to lean on when you’re the first, few, only.
Made to stand alone, unsure – the first, few, only.

“Trailblazer” sounds strong … it’s built on your exhaustion,
every question to answer for, the first, few, only.

Back of your neck prickling, weight of observation,
on the microscope slide forevermore, the first, few, only.

Work to be done, microaggressions to swallow,
make your face right – necessary chore – the first, few, only.

And we, your sisters, follow your steps, still learning.
Each of us – one foot in the door – the first, few, only.

National Poetry Month 2022: the Ghazal

As I’ve done for more than ten years (what?!), I’ve chosen a poetic form, and I’m going to try to write a poem in that form every day for the month of April … and I’m saying that boldly, knowing that I’ve already failed. I couldn’t find my way through to a poem on Day One, but I’m determined to continue.

The “Ghazal” is the form I’ve chosen for this year. Here is the structure and a little backstory (thank you Poetry Foundation):

“Originally an Arabic verse form dealing with loss and romantic love, medieval Persian poets embraced the ghazal, eventually making it their own. Consisting of syntactically and grammatically complete couplets, the form also has an intricate rhyme scheme. Each couplet ends on the same word or phrase (the radif), and is preceded by the couplet’s rhyming word (the qafia, which appears twice in the first couplet). The last couplet includes a proper name, often of the poet’s. In the Persian tradition, each couplet was of the same meter and length, and the subject matter included both erotic longing and religious belief or mysticism.”

Should be interesting!

2 thoughts on “Um … where did this go sideways?

  1. Oh Stacie, the unspoken -Working Twice As Hard- for The “Half As Much” of the title speaks volumes. I am feeling the entirety of this ghazal. And …
    “Work to be done, microaggressions to swallow,
    make your face right – necessary chore – the first, few, only.”

    — is hitting hard today.

    Like

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